This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 2 May 2007.

  • 52 #52 of 52 (DC)
  • Welcome to Tranquility #6, by Gail Simone & Neil Googe (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Ms. Marvel #15, by Brian Reed, Aaron Lopresti & Matt Ryan (Marvel)
  • Hellboy: Darkness Calls #1 of 6, by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fedrego (Dark Horse)

A light week this week.

52 finally wraps up. All-in-all I thought it was fun. I think the Elongated Man arc was the best, with that terrific conclusion illustrated by Darick Robertson. The Question and Booster Gold arcs were quite fun. The Black Adam arc wandered around but ended up being pretty good. The Steel arc as kind of pointless, but had a decent payoff issue. The Mystery in Space arc was completely, utterly pointless – why did they even bother with it? Overall it was decent light entertainment, enough so that I’m going to head on into Countdown, which starts next week.

Brian Hibbs writes a good analysis of 52, although I think he’s a little harsh on it. Yes, the series’ focus clearly changed from its original direction, but it did so mainly to focus on the stories it was really telling, so it could do them justice. While not all the stories succeeded, I don’t think they would have fared nearly so well had it stuck to its original mandate of showing how the DC Universe changed in the year following Infinite Crisis. Choosing a framework that results in better stories is rarely a bad thing.

Welcome to Tranquility wraps up its first story this month. Greg Burgas wrote an excellent analysis of the story (with spoilers), although I think he enjoyed it more than I did, as I think there are too many characters to feel like I have a good handle on any of them yet, and therefore it’s hard to care about any of them. And, as I’ve said, I’m not a big fan of Googe’s art. That said, it’s quirky and fun enough to keep buying it and see if it improves.

By the way, Free Comic Book Day is this Saturday. I’ll be going to the sale at my regular store, Comics Conspiracy.

(I’m also ridiculously eager to play the new Magic: The Gathering expansion, Future Sight, which comes out tomorrow. But now I’ve wandered away from comics and into gaming, so it’s probably time to go to bed.)

This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 18 April 2007.

Once again, I present last week’s haul this week:

  • Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #51, by Tad Williams, Shawn McManus & Waldon Wong (DC)
  • The Brave and the Bold #3, by Mark Waid, George Pérez & Bob Wiacek (DC)
  • Ex Machina #27, by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris & Jim Clark (DC/Wildstorm)
  • World War III one-shots #1-4 (DC)
  • 52 #50 of 52 (DC)
  • Justice League of America #8, by Brad Meltzer, Shane Davis & Matt Banning (DC)
  • Invincible Ultimate Collection vol 2 HC, by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley (Image)
  • Evil Inc. Annual Report vol 2 TPB, by Brad J. Guigar (Lulu Press)
  • Hero by Night #2, by D.J. Coffman & Jason Embury (Platinum Studios)

Aquaman is a little better this month than last. I still don’t think McManus’ efforts here are as strong as in days past, but they’re better; maybe he was stretched doing a double-sized issue. Maybe inker Wong is having a strong influence. I dunno.

The Brave and the Bold: Best superhero comic on the market? Maaaaybe.

Ex Machina is definitely picking up. I’m genuinely looking forward to what comes out of the current story.

52 this week is “World War III”, where Black Adam goes to war against the world and its heroes (and villains), and does a terrific amount of damage in the process. It’s not bad. That said, the four spin-off specials are not essential. DC claims they published them because the story of World War III was too big to fit into one issue of 52, and they could cover more characters and provide more context with the extra space. It’s all horse-hockey of course, but I got suckered in anyway. If you do decide to pick up the set, I suggest reading the specials before the actual issue of 52.

Has there been, in recent memory, a more cynically packaged (even “marketed” seems too kind a term) comic than the current Justice League of America series? Meltzer is another in DC’s stable of “hot” writers (who all seem interchangeable to me), the covers are provided by “hot” artist Michael Turner (the anatomical deficiencies in whose art could fill a while entry), and the series took half a dozen issues just to introduce the new team. The artwork of Shane Davis (whom I’ve never heard of before) is out of the Jim Lee/Image Comics school of pencilling, with muscular figures, generic backgrounds, and lots and lots of crosshatching. Overall, a decidedly mediocre combination.

That said, this issue is the first part of a crossover story with Justice Society of America (also not a very good comic, but at least an earnest one), which will also feature the Legion of Super-Heroes. Since the character of Starman is one of the best features of JSA, and I’m perhaps overly optimistic that a Legion/time travel story could be a lot of fun, I’m going to give it a read. The first installment suggests that Starman and Karate Kid are time-lost heroes who are part of a contingent sent back to the 20th century on some mysterious mission, and who have lost their memories. Since the story is called “The Lightning Saga”, my guess is that Lightning Lad/Lightning Lass/Lightning Lord (and maybe the Legion of Super-Villains) will figure in it, as well. Especially since this first chapter seems to be titled “Lightning Lad” (in Interlac).

(Incidentally, the idea that Batman could take down Karate Kid is fairly laughable, but that’s the conceit that DC’s built up around Bats these days.)

The second volume of Invincible seems like the almost-obligatory resting-up-from-the-first-volume/laying-the-seeds-for-the-third-volume collection. It’s still fun, but nothing like the first volume. Kirkman’s attention to the supporting cast and the increasing number of details of their lives is enjoyable, but I hope there’s a big bang in the third volume to deliver the payoff.

This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 4 April 2007.

This week’s 52 may be the most muddled issue of the series. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, or why I should care. Didn’t they finish up the Intergang stuff months ago? Bleah.

My Dad I think summed up my feelings about Jack of Fables best in an e-mail: “When it was dealing with the group that captured him, it was pretty good, but when it’s just about his jerky self, not too hot.” Jack really is a jerk, and actually no one in the series is really someone you can root for. And the art is pretty so-so. I don’t think I’ll be buying it much longer.

“Planet Hulk” ends this month, and it’s just interesting enough that maybe I will pick up World War Hulk this summer.

I’ve been curious about Invincible for a long time now. The premise is that the hero is the son of a Superman-type figure who got married and had a kid, and Invincible inherits Omni-Man’s powers. (I’ve been spoiled and know that there’s more to it than that, but that’s the crux of the premise.) I did the math and it turns out that buying the Ultimate Collection hardcovers is about the same price as buying the trade paperbacks, and the hardcovers are, well, hardcover, not to mention using larger pages. Hence I went for the hardcover.

I’m about 4 issues into the volume so far, and it’s quite good. Robert Kirkman’s wry sense of humor brings a welcome levity (and reality) to what in many ways is a silver age comic series updated for the modern day. On the downside, the characters are pretty thin: The heroes are defined almost entirely by their powers, and the supporting cast have basically no personality. There’s no depth. Maybe that will change over time (I think the series has run more than 30 issues so far). Considering the series so far feels like a father/son series mixed with a coming-of-age story (and fortunately without the wacky hijinks that often accompany the “teenager discovers he has super powers” yarns these days, such as those which plagued Spyboy), it could benefit greatly from deeper characterization (but then, what story couldn’t?). Artist Cory Walker has a great sense of form and dynamism, but he could use an inker who could lend some complexity and (there’s that word again) depth to his layouts, as the art is often too spare for my tastes.

But overall, this one looks like a winner. The second collection is already out, and the third is due out this summer, so they ought to keep me busy for a while. Hopefully it gets better as it goes along.

This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 28 February 2007.

  • 52 #43 of 52 (DC)
  • Jack of Fables #8 (DC/Vertigo)
  • Justice #10 (DC)
  • Welcome to Tranquility #1-3 (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Eternals #7 of 7 (Marvel)
  • The Secret History #1 of 7 (ASP)

Despite a cover featuring Animal Man, 52 #43 mainly focuses on the Black Adam Family, which is my least-favorite storyline in the series. Bummer.

I’m starting to think that Jack of Fables just isn’t going to get very good. Jack is a one-note character, and not at all a likeable one, and the series has yet to cohere around an interesting plot or supporting cast. I wonder how it’s doing in sales?

Welcome to Tranquility has gotten some good word-of-mouth, so I gave it a try. It’s written by Gail Simone, who’s ended up in my consciousness as one of those “decent wordsmith, nothing in particular to attract me to her books” writers, similar to Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka (and ahead of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar), but not as distinctive as Grant Morrison. That said, I’ve never actually read anything by her, so it’s just purely word-of-mouth.

Tranquility is a town which serves as a retirement home for old superheroes, but which also houses their children and grandchildren. The Sheriff, Thomasina, tries to hold things together, while a documentary filmmaker, Collette, shows up just in time to see things start to fall apart, as an old-time detective-hero, Mr. Articulate, is murdered. The town is also on edge because it houses the children and grandchildren of the old heroes, and the generations don’t see things the same way.

The book feels in some ways like Alan Moore’s take on Supreme with its nostalgia for these alternate heroes, while they’re still very much among us. But there’s more of a feeling of “days gone by and they’re not coming back” than in that book (which is more about successfully restoring the glories of yesteryear), and a lot of that feel that the characters are stuck in Tranquility and they’re not going to get out. The three issues so far are mainly setup, with some investigation into the basic mystery. There are some nifty characters, especially Maximum Man (a Captain Marvel type character who’s forgotten his magic word and spends all his time trying to remember it) and the Emoticon, who wears a mask which displays smileys.

Neil Googe’s art at its best is reminiscent of Chris Sprouse, but his figures occasionally go all cartoony, which wrecks the book’s atmosphere. It’s right on the edge of being a style I can really enjoy, but I wish he’d nudge it into a more realistic direction.

Overall, it’s not a bad start.

Eternals wraps up Neil Gaiman’s second series for Marvel. 1602 was a lot better. I’m not a big fan of John Romita’s artwork (and his depictions of San Francisco are atrocious), and the painted covers are also pretty bad. It ends up being one of those “character discovers he’s really a superhero and loses all of his personality” stories, so I’m not sure what the point was.

Archaia Studios Press continues to crank out good books, this time The Secret History, written by Jean-Pierre Pécau and drawn by Igor Kordley. It’s the story of four immortal siblings who each possess a runestone which gives them great powers and who basically don’t like each other. It’s not a real novel premise, but if it successfully reveals the characters over its seven issues, it ought to be pretty entertaining. The first issue focuses on the events surrounding Moses and the Jews’ departure from Egypt, and is lively with some thoughtful moments, mainly surrounding Erlin, who possesses the rune of the Shield, and who seems like a responsible and philosophical person who regards the mortal Moses as a trusted friend. I’ve seen Kordley’s art a couple of times before, but he really does a great job depicting large battles and realistic landscapes. It’s too soon to call this an unqualified winner, but I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to more.

As a final note, I decided this week to stop buying the Jack Staff monthly comic, and switch to reading it in the collections. Paul Grist’s storytelling style isn’t well-suited to a periodical, and I’m finding that the overall stories take a long time to get anywhere (and sometimes I’m not sure where they’ve actually ended up). Basically, Grist’s writing just isn’t tight enough for my tastes

This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 21 February 2007.

  • Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #49 (DC)
  • The Brave and the Bold #1 (DC)
  • 52 #42 of 52 (DC)
  • Wonder Woman #4 (DC)
  • Red Menace #4 of 6 (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Brit: Old Soldier vol. 1 TPB (Image)

The Brave and the Bold revives a very old DC title. Best-known for being dedicated to team-ups between Batman and other characters, this new series will feature rotating team-ups each issue. The first issue is Batman and Green Lantern, while the second will be Green Lantern and Supergirl. But the real attraction is the all-star creative team: Writer Mark Waid, and artists George Pérez and Bob Wiacek. Waid is an always-entertaining superhero wordsmith, and Pérez – as I’ve said before – I think is the best artist in the business. Wiacek is no slouch as an inker, and it seems like it’s been years since I saw his name on a book. The first issue is a fun romp involving 64 identical bodies all murdered in the same way at the same time, and a trail leading to a Las Vegas casino. It’s too early to tell whether the story will make a lot of sense, but it sure does look good. The kicker is that Waid plays up the differences between Batman and Green Lantern – in both their identities – but has pleasantly put all the horse-hockey involving Hal Jordan’s murky story of the last decade behind them. Go Mark Waid!

52 resolves the ongoing Ralph Dibny (the former Elongated Man) storyline. His wife Sue was pointlessly killed in the pointless mini-series Identity Crisis a few years back, and he’s been muddling around ever since, most recently palling around with the helmet of Doctor Fate to cast a spell to pull her back from the afterlife. It all comes to a head here, with several nifty revelations, although a ending which seems far too unfortunate given all the build-up. Hopefully this isn’t the end. It’s also a rare issue illustrated all by one artist, Darick Robertson (Transmetropolitan), whose style suits this issue very well. Well done, guys.

Brit is yet another book written by Robert Kirkman (Marvel Zombies, Invincible, The Walking Dead). Brit is actually an American government agent, who is an older man who’s completely invulnerable. He’s the government’s last line of defense. Kirkman writes that he wanted Brit to be a “widescreen” fight book, with big panels and lots of violence. In this, it succeeds.

Kirkman also misses a bet completely: The first issue teases us with the view of a long-standing hero (well, sorta-hero) who’s perhaps nearing the end of his career and perhaps losing his powers, but who refuses to see it. Given Brit’s take-no-shit attitude, this could have ended up as an interesting character story, but instead it’s just a big fight book. Pity. The art ranges from good to merely passable, steadily declining throughout the three chapters in the volume.

This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 14 February 2007.

Okay, having tried it for a few weeks, I think I like my original format better:

  • 52 #41 of 52 (DC)
  • Justice Society of America #3 (DC)
  • Sandman Mystery Theatre: Sleep of Reason #3 of 5 (DC/Vertigo)
  • The Incredible Hulk #96-103 (Marvel)

That said, it was an undistinguished week. 52 and JSA both had pretty pedestrian issues. Sandman has its points of interest, but Eric Nguyen’s skechy artwork turns me off: Backgrounds are rare, peoples’ faces usually look strained or pained, characters are difficult to tell apart… I think the story would do much better with a more realistic art style.

I bought the rest of the “Planet Hulk” storyline to date (apparently it will run through #105). It occurred to me while reading these eight issues that the story is focusing mainly on the Hulk, and Bruce Banner hardly appears at all. It mainly concerns the influence that Hulk has on those around him, how they learn from his demeanor and aggressiveness, and how that doesn’t always apply in different situations. The Hulk is unique because he’s learned to care about no one but himself, and he has the power to back it up; those who are more caring, or weaker, can’t get away with the same attitude. But Hulk also realizes that he’s his own worst enemy, though he’s come to accept this somewhat.

In a way, this story takes the gray Hulk from early in Peter David’s run and makes him more aloof and dispassionate: He’s not stupid, and he understands many of the subtleties of what’s going on around him, but mostly he doesn’t care. In the high-pressure arena that he’s landed on, that makes for an entertaining ride. (Aaron Lopresti’s artwork is darned nice, too.)

This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 7 February 2007.

  • 52 #40 of 52 (DC)

    The long-running Luthor/Steel/Infinity Inc. storyline apparently comes to a conclusion here. Oddly, it seems entirely disconnected from the rest of the series’ storylines, so either there’s something else going on, or not everything is connected. The latter would be kind of lame, I think.

  • Justice Society vol. 2 TPB (DC)

    The completion of the reprint of All-Star Comics from the 1970s. This was and still is one of my all-time favorite superhero series (starring the Justice Society of America). Although in some ways too blunt and not very sophisticated, this was the seminal series exploring relationships between multiple generations of heroes, and was one of the first series to consider that heroes will eventually retire. A lot of series in the decades since owe a lot to the ground this series covered. If it has a downside, it’s that Joe Staton’s pencils in this volume (following the Wally Wood-dominated first half) seems a little too cartoony and simplistic. It’s still a fun read, though.

  • Astro City: The Dark Age Book Two #2 of 4 (DC/Wildstorm)

    The halfway point in this lengthy series (which will consist of three 4-issue series), it’s running a little late. I’m starting to wonder where Kurt Busiek is going with this particular story; although it focuses on the pair of brothers – one a crook, one a cop – and their lives in the 1970s, there’s a lot more that I hope gets resolved here. I think it will end up being either very ambitious, or rather scattered. But based on the series’ track record in the past, I’ll hope for the former.

  • Fantastic Four: The End #5 of 6 (Marvel)
  • The Incredible Hulk #92-95 (Marvel)

    I’ve heard good things about the “Planet Hulk” storyline which begins with these issues, so I decided to pick them up. (They’re about a year old now, so I have some catching up to do.) The Hulk is exiled by other heroes to a peaceful but uninhabited world, but something goes wrong and he lands on a barbaric world with a variety of creatures, and is captured and turned into a gladiator. But clearly as he regains the strength he lost from his journey, he’s going to become a player.

    It’s not a terribly subtle story, but writer Greg Pak keeps his eyes on the prize: The Hulk is entirely self-absorbed, doesn’t trust anyone, but isn’t (any longer) a fool, either. Which makes him a very dangerous contestant who’s not willing to play by anyones rules. (This also explains why the Hulk isn’t taking part in the Civil War “event”.)

    So this seems like a promising beginning to what they say will be a 14-issue story. I suspect it will have the usual disappointment in that eventually the Hulk will have to return to Earth and leave behind anything he’s gained on this other world. But that’s the downside to ongoing series.

  • Ms. Marvel #12 (Marvel)

    The first year of this series has been extremely haphazard, in large part because the Civil War disrupted it a great deal. Writer Brian Reed says in the letter column here that the second year will take the series in a different direction, as our heroine comes to grips with the less-than-ideal conclusions of some of her battles. I’d be happy if it just becomes a more cohesive series with more direction.

  • newuniversal #3 (Marvel)
  • Dr. Blink: Superhero Shrink: Id. Ego. Superego! vol. 1 TPB (Dork Storm)

    This is a collection of the very funny superhero satire by John Kovalic (Dork Tower) and Christopher Jones. Kovalic leaves no turn unstoned among the mainstream heroes, with both obvious and subtle humor worked in. Jones’ artwork straddles the line between dynamic and cartoony, and although it’s not stellar, it has some fine moments. (It’s reminiscent of Michael Avon Oeming’s work on Powers, actually.) The book is dedicated by Bob Newhart and Kurt Busiek, and it certainly feels like a twisted reflection of Busiek’s Astro City.

    The collection features a mix of 2-pagers (or thereabouts) and a few long-form stories; the latter are by far the more successful, as the short gags get a little repetitive after a while. But it’s still a fun little package, and it’s in color, yet! I’ll certainly be on board for the second collection.

This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 17 January 2007.

I’m going to try a different format this week and see how I (and you) like it.

  • Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #48 (DC)
  • 52 #37 of 52 (DC)

    This issue reveals one of the ongoing mysteries of the series, and it’s not really a huge surprise to anyone, I guess. It was fun to read, though! Also, in this week’s text page in DC books, there’s a coded message regarding the “big” mystery of 52, so if you don’t mind getting spoiled, Comics Should Be Good reveals the secret.

    Yeah, not really a big surprise. It’s not like it’s something DC ever does anything with even when they do acknowledge it, anyway.

  • Sandman Mystery Theatre: Sleep of Reason #2 of 5 (DC/Vertigo)
  • Red Menace #3 of 6 (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Avengers Assemble vol. 4 HC (Marvel)

    A few years ago, Marvel Comics published maybe the best run of the Avengers ever. Written by Kurt Busiek with art by George Perez (maybe his best work ever, too), it managed to combine good heroic adventure with a respect for characters and continuity and some of the best artwork in comics. It was fun, lavish, exciting, and thoughtful.

    This volume is part of that run, but unfortunately it’s the ugly stepchild of the set. See, Perez left the book after an impressive three-year run, and was followed by an awkward half-year of crossovers and fill-in artists.

    This volume includes the three-issue crossover mini-series Maximum Security, written by Busiek and drawn by Jerry Ordway. It’s not a very good story, and although I’m a long-time Ordway fan, this is not his most inspired work. (For better Ordway material, try Red Menace, above.) The premise is amusing: The alien community in the galaxy gets so tired of humans meddling in their affairs that they quarantine Earth and start using it as a penal colony. Unfortunately it’s got the tired old “It’s all a scheme by some old enemies” kicker and doesn’t rise above the level of workmanlike.

    Steve Epting is a very competent artist who followed Perez (following a one-issue Security tie-in by John Romita Jr.), but I don’t think his style fit the Avengers very well, being very dark and realistic. He’s followed by Alan Davis, who became the regular artist for a while. I like Davis’ work a lot too, and although he’s no Perez, he was a fine substitute. Unfortunately, his first story involved a town in Greece being transformed into a town of Hulks, which mostly leads to a lot of fighting and the amusement of seeing the words “Hulk smash!” in Greek (at least, that’s what I assume “Hoolk Dialysei” means).

    The volume ends with a pair of forgettable specials, one featuring the Hellcat, the other featuring the return of Ultron (again?).

    So, not a great collection. However, volume 5 should feature the end of Busiek’s run, with his epic “Kang Dynasty” story, and that is worth the price of admission. So my completist little heart doesn’t mind picking up this one.

  • Castle Waiting #4 (Fantagraphics)
  • Liberty Meadows: Cold, Cold Heart vol. 4 TPB (Image)

    Frank Cho first came to my attention when his university strip University Squared was collected some years ago. Well-drawn, irreeverent – if more than a little sophomoric – it was a nifty little package. Cho’s wacky humor and clean linework led to a daily newspaper strip, Liberty Meadows.

    Although it had a crushingly weak premise (wimpy Frank works at an animal sanctuary, pines after the sexy Brandy, and deals with the hijinks of the sanctuary’s residents), Cho’s twisted sense of humor and broad knowledge of pop culture was pretty amusing – for a while. But by the time this volume came around, things had gone horribly wrong: Cho was chafing at frequently being censored by his syndicate (and without the sense of humor about such things that, say, Scott Adams has), the wacky hijinks were becoming strained, and the strip was focusing on the romantic tensions among the humans. I think by this point Cho had ended the newspaper strip and was publishing new strips only in the comic book series (but I could be wrong). Spending more pages here on Brandy’s somewhat evil roommate Jen was sort of like Berke Breathed introducing Bill the Cat in Bloom County: It was when the strip jumped the shark.

    Cho has moved on to doing comics at Marvel, but it always seems to me like he’s mainly interested in drawing buxom babes. Now, this is virtually a tradition in superhero comics at this point, but I find it terribly difficult to take Cho’s art seriously at this point. Most of his female characters seem to have the same faces with different hairstyles, and as for drawing men, well, there’s this.

    Cho’s a hugely talented artist, and I guess I shouldn’t hold it against him that what he values in his career is not at all what I value in what I read. But it seems like a tremendous waste to me.

    Anyway. If you’re a big Cho fan, here you go. If you’re not, well, I’d suggest starting with the first volume and see what you think.

This Week’s Haul

Comics I bought the week of 6 December 2006.

Okay, really last week’s comics, but still!

  • 52 #31 of 52 (DC)
  • Justice Society of America #1 (DC)
  • NewUniversal #1 (Marvel)
  • Robotika HC (Archaia)
  • New Tales of Old Palomar #1 (Fantagraphics)
  • The All-Star Companion volume 2 (TwoMorrows)

An interesting haul this week, starting with a brutal issue of 52 featuring the last days of Captain Comet – the old one, anyway – and a threat that frightens even the Guardians of the Universe. 52 mainly suffers from meandering all over the place, with still no sign of a coherent story yet, but some bits are quite good. This issue is one of those bits.

Another decade, another revival of the Justice Society of America. Nothing’s quite equalled the 1970s run of All-Star Comics, although Roy Thomas’ All-Star Squadron in the 1980s was very good at times. On the other hand, the recent JSA series won plaudits from critics for its strong characterization, which baffled me since I thought the plotting meandered around without really going anywhere, and the characterization was nonexistent. This new series starts out on a better foot: Writer Geoff Johns is not the superstar that DC seems to think he is (he’s no James Robinson, for instance), but he’s pretty good, and he introduces a number of interesting threads, including several rather messed-up characters such as the new Starman, the revamped Damage, and the overexuberant (I presume) young Red Tornado. Dale Eaglesham’s layouts are good, and he has a good sense of form and motion, but as Johanna Carlson points out, his handling of anatomy is pretty iffy. I also think Art Thibert is not a good match as Eaglesham’s inker. Anyway, it has promise. We’ll see.

(I’m an old JSA fan dating back to that 70s series, so I’m willing to check out new series starring the team, but I also have fairly high standards for them.)

NewUniversal is Warren Ellis’ relaunch of Marvel’s ill-conceived and ill-fated New Universe from the 1980s. A White Event grants several ordinary people superpowers, and changing the world. The original titles had very small ambitions and failed largely because of that. Ellis is probably better-suited to squeezing better stories out of the concepts, and Salvador Larroca is a fine artist, so I’m optimistic that this’ll be a good one.

Robotika collects Alex Sheikman’s series about a far-future world populated by cyborgs in which a mute samurai quests for an invention his mistress desires, and then acts as a bodyguard for some travellers and learns something about himself. Sheikman’s art is pretty nifty, like a cleaner version of Jae Lee. His writing leaves a lot to be desired, though. First, the story doesn’t really go anywhere. Second, he tends to break sentences awkwardly between several thought balloons. Third, one of his characters speaks in sentences written vertically, which is so hard to read it’s not really worth it. Besides all that, I think Sheikman was more interested in creating a cool-looking samurai story, while I was hoping to read a cutting-edge posthumanist science fiction graphic novel, and Robotika just doesn’t measure up to authors like Charles Stross and Alastair Reynolds.

New Tales of Old Palomar is a new magazine-sized series by Gilbert Hernandez, revisiting his fictional Mexican city during the heyday of the original Love and Rockets series. I enjoyed the early run of the Palomar stories the best, and going back to those days is a lot of fun. The story is almost a trifle, but it’s nice to visit old friends.

The All-Star Companion volume two adds more information that didn’t fit in volume one, including an index of All-Star Squadron. The first volume is fun reading for fans of the Justice Society, but this one is definitely too much of a good thing; although the art is pretty, I think this is more than I needed to know. Apparently there will be a volume three, but I think I’ll pass.

Wow, I had a lot to write about this week. I bet next week is lighter!

This Week’s Haul

  • 52 #26 (DC)
  • Ex Machina #24 (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Fantastic Four: The End #1 (Marvel)
  • Mouse Guard #5 (Archaia Studios Press)

The cover feature of 52 – featuring the Black Marvel Family – is pretty dull. More interesting is John Henry Irons confronting his daughter – who now works as part of Lex Luthor’s science-built superhero team – on a talk show. Boy, I hope she gets her comeuppance before this is over.

Ex Machina doesn’t get the press that writer Brian K. Vaughn’s other book, Y The Last Man, does, but I gave up on Y a long time ago, while Ex Machina still keeps me interested. It doesn’t hurt that it’s drawn by Tony Harris, a terrific artist who also drew the first half of James Robinson’s Starman. The premise is that a man gains the ability to talk to machines, has a brief career as the world’s only superhero, and after saving one of the World Trade Towers on 9/11 is elected Mayor of New York City. The book is part science fiction, part horror, and part political drama. Unfortunately that doesn’t leave a lot of room for deep character drama, but it’s still a good book, if a little on the slow side.

Alan Davis writes and draws Fantastic Four: The End, so you know it looks nice. Davis’ stock-in-trade as a writer is the conspiracy storyline, where the heroes have to untangle a web of villainout planning. Unfortunately I find this gets a little repetitive, and it looks like this series will be in much the same vein as his Superboy’s Legion or his two JLA: The Nail series, which means it should be enjoyable, but may not be very memorable.

I reviewed Mouse Guard on Four Color Comics back in June, and it’s nearly done. Clean artwork with a straightforward and fun story. I guess it’s been selling pretty well, and that’s good to hear.