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Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

Green Lantern #55 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Invincible #73 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Superman #700 [Review]

The Comeback
Storytellers: James Robinson & Bernard Chang
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover: Gary Frank & Brad Anderson
Editor: Matt Idelson

Geometry
Writer/Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Norm Rapmund
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

Grounded Prologue: The Slap Heard ‘Round the World
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciller: Eddy Barrows
Inker: J.P. Mayer
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

So…Superman hits #700. I still remember when Action Comics hit this number nearly 200 months ago, waaaaay back in 1994.

Of course, this one somehow doesn’t seem quite as special. For one thing, it doesn’t seem nearly so special, what with Batman #700 being out a couple weeks back, and Wonder Woman #600 about to hit, and being aware of those other titles and the anniversaries.

Plus, while perhaps after 16 years I’m forgetting…right now, I’m recalling that Action Comics #700 was simply its own story, part of the single, ongoing story of the time. An extra-sized issue celebrating the anniversary, but other than the length and the tease of a wedding…just another issue.

Superman #700 is just another issue, but not in the good way.

We have 3 partial-issue stories, making this just another “anthology” of sorts, of Superman stories. The first story features Superman’s reunion with Lois, after having been away so long on New Krypton…that creative team making their exit. The middle story by Dan Jurgens is a fairly fun throwback to the days of lighter stories, and is a fairly welcome return…unfortunately, just for this story as part of the anniversary issue. The final story is a prologue to the incoming creative team.

Frankly, I’m rather tired of things jumping all over the place with the Superman books of late. If multiple issues were all advancing different sides of a story fairly equally and on a consistent basis…sure. But lately–particularly the Last Stand of New Krypton–things have seemed outright disorganized to me. Better to have one issue focusing on this element, one issue focusing on another, one issue focusing on yet another element of the story, in terms of expanding beyond a “core.”

This feels like it should be an “annual” given the anthology nature. Incoming readers jumping on for #700 may not really have any sense of the past year and a half or so of stories, so that first segment won’t mean much; and those looking to get the conclusion to the story they’ve followed for over a year and a half are stuck with material for an entirely different creative team and story that on the whole is likely to be an entire disconnect from the last couple years’ worth of stories. And the Superman/Robin story–while enjoyable and entertaining enough, being disconnected from both the other segments, would also itself seem better-suited to be a special issue all its own.

I can’t help but compare The Comeback to the sequence from Adventures of Superman #505 back in 1993 that provided the official reunion between Superman and Lois after Superman’s death and the Reign of the Supermen epic. Though now nearly 17 years in the past, I prefer that to this…this one seems somehow arbitrary, and lacked the feeling and depth of the 1993 story. The art’s not bad, but when compared to the Jurgens/Rapmund that follows, it pales significantly for me.

Geometry is a nice little tale from Superman’s early years, and shows a situation which winds up being a Superman/Robin team-up between Clark and Dick, while Bruce is unable to do the Batman thing due to an essential Wayne Enterprises function. Robin strikes out on his own for the night, having realized that an arms transaction was going to go down sooner than he or Batman had thought. Superman had already dealt with the individuals in Metropolis, and follows up on the Gotham City side, where he winds up being in time to save Robin, who got in over his head. The two share the friendly bond of being out of their element/not having Batman in the mix…though the conclusion provides a nice extra touch. Jurgens is just about my favorite Superman artist, and working with Rapmund, the art for this segment is a huge treat with some of my favorite Superman art featured in the current titles in quite awhile.

The final 10-page prologue for Straczynski‘s Grounded serves as a true prologue–setting up the story to come. Still freshly returned from a year on New Krypton, Superman has been before governmental bodies explaining what happened and his role in what recently transpired (in War of the Supermen). He is confronted by a woman whose husband recently died of cancer, and she blames Superman for not being there to save him–that his powers surely could have allowed him to “operate” where actual doctors could not. This leads to Superman brooding over the situation, blaming himself, and through a flashback to a conversation with Pa Kent, he comes to the conclusion that he’s been keeping himself above things, in a comfort zone, and must change things up and put himself back into fertile soil, wake himself up from how he’s been, to do what he really needs to do.

The visuals for this story–as provided by Barrows & co.–isn’t quite up to Jurgens/Rapmund‘s style in my eyes, but is still good quality work, and enjoyable in and of itself. No real complaint to it, and if this quality is maintained for the entirety of the Grounded arc, I’ll be a pretty happy camper.

Overall, this is the second anniversary issue this month to be more disappointment than not, though. If you’re interested simply in having the anniversary issue with a big, round number…sure, you could do a lot worse than this issue. But if you’re not an ongoing/continuing reader, the Superman/Robin story (not tied to previous nor upcoming story) is only 16 pages and certainly not worth the $4.99 cover price by itself.

I won’t go so far as to recommend against this issue, as exact interests/tastes vary in what may be desired in such an issue. But I don’t specifically recommend this, either. Ratings below based on the issue as a whole.

Story: 4/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 5.5/10

Jurassic Park: Redemption #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 2.5/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 2.5/5

Joker’s Asylum II: Killer Croc #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

Green Arrow #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Red Robin and Booster Gold: A Tale of Two Books

Red Robin

I’ve long followed Tim Drake’s adventures. His first appearance was in the Batman: Year Three arc, the final issue of which was my very first-ever Batman comic to own. The very next Batman arc was the Lonely Place of Dying 5-parter crossing over with New Titans, that officially introduced Tim Drake to the Robin role. I had initially missed–but quickly caught up on–the original two mini-series the character had, bought the Eclipso: The Darkness Within annual that summer, and the first year or so of the ongoing series following Knightfall.

While I’ve not been a completist regarding Tim Drake’s series (I have the 3 minis and the ongoing up to One Year Later as well as a couple of the Batman: RIP tie-ins and the series finale), I’ve generally enjoyed keeping up with the character. His changeover to the Red Robin identity brought me back, and while I was somewhat interested in where the character’s headed, told myself that I’d stop at Yost‘s final issue (Red Robin #12), as the end of that story seemed as good a jumping-off point as any.

However, I couldn’t resist checking out what Nicieza‘s going to do with the character, and bought the first issue of his run–Red Robin #13–and quite enjoyed it. I’m fairly torn on sticking with the single issues, though and lean toward simply waiting for collected volumes. At the least, I’m confident that Nicieza‘s got a good grasp of what Tim Drake’s all about, and the character is in good hands moving forward.

Booster Gold

Along similar lines, Booster Gold is a character I’m familiar with going back to 1992’s Doomsday / The Death of Superman arc. The character has matured quite a bit since then, particularly throughout 52 and the current ongoing series. Aside from guest appearances, the character was largely off my radar, though, from the late 1990s until 52.

I initially picked up the ongoing because of Geoff Johns‘ writing, and having been hooked back into the character during 52. I considered leaving when Johns left, but the announcement that Booster Gold’s creator, Dan Jurgens, would be taking over after a short interim team kept me onboard. With Jurgens‘ departure, I decided that I would probably step away as well.

Still, like with Red Robin, I couldn’t resist picking up the first issue with the new creative team (despite an ugly cover) to check ’em out, see what they seemed likely to be doing with the character. And again, I have to admit that I’m intrigued. Though this is the “Bwa-Ha-Ha” creative team, they keep a decidedly serious angle on the character (just with that humor thrown in), which is a welcome element: both in having the humor as well as them not in their very first issue discarding everything that’s come before. Instead, they seem to be leaving in place what’s already come, and are simply building from it…moving forward with a look back in the rear-view instead of turning the whole car around to GO back.

Also as with Red Robin, I’m not sure I want to stick to the single issues…but I’m definitely likely to be interested in the collected volumes. Lack of interest in the single issues is a comics-in-general thing for me, and not indicative of the creative teams’ quality.

Other thoughts

In the wake of the huge Blackest Night event across 9 months or so, and the majority of comics seeming to be hitting the $3.99 price point with virtually no stop in the $3.25 or $3.50 range, I’m burning out. I’ve also been increasingly frustrated at collected volumes either being over-priced for what they contain, or being a superior “package” to the single issues, as they often make me feel like I’m almost being “punished” for buying single issues.

Rather than burn myself out entirely and buying strictly out of habit and such, I’m looking at starting from scratch as to what titles I’m going to buy and keep up with, and probably cut loose a bunch of others for a time, as I can play catchup later if needbe–whether single issues at a convention or collected volumes from the comic shop or Amazon.

Red Robin‘s the only Bat-book I’ve been getting after deciding to bail on the Batman Reborn stuff last summer, and Booster Gold‘s been the only “general-DC” book I’ve been getting after opting to stop buying JSA when Johns left (I tried the first issue after and wasn’t sold on the new team).

And now as I look to pare down my buying even further…I’m likely to let these two titles go primarily for budgetary reasons. Red Robin will likely tie in to the Return of Bruce Wayne and/or whatever follows that, and Booster Gold‘s likely the same, as well as having ties to Brightest Day and Generation Lost.

If you’re interested in either character, where they’re going, or the creative teams…I still very much recommend them, and my choosing to let ’em go does not feel like a statement of quality as much as sacrificing books that seem likely to play into larger stories I’m not willing to risk getting pulled into on top of these books.

New Mutants #14 [Review]

Second Coming (chapter 11)

Written by: Zeb Wells
Art by: Ibraim Roberson, Lan Medina and Nathan Fox
Colored by: Brian Reber, Matt Milla and Jose Villarubia
Lettered by: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by: Adi Granov
Associate Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Editor: Nick Lowe
Published by: Marvel Comics

Xavier enters the mind of his son, David (Legion) Haller, to prepare him to help the X-Men. In the real world, Cyclops deputizes every mutant present as X-Men…the dome trapping them and the nimrods arriving every few minutes means that every individual must come together, to “Fight or die.” Meanwhile, Rogue and Hope share a moment, as Colossus and Namor have their hands full holding the Golden Gate Bridge against Nimrods. In the future, the X-Force contingent has their hands full with their own problems…including multiple Master Molds. Back in the present, Hank McCoy–Beast–says his goodbyes as he prepares to enter the fray, and another player joins the battle.

The multiple artists / multiple colorists team is quite noticeable, and while in some ways it’s distracting, it’s also fitting to the story, as we’re dealing with several very different locales: David Haller’s mindscape, the X-Men in present day, and X-Force in a dark future. I’m not particularly a fan of any of the art–the only issues of this series I’ve bought have been whatever issues were earlier chapters of Second Coming–and offhand I don’t even recognize the artists’ names from any of their previous work that I might have seen. Of the differing visuals, the most off-putting is David Haller’s mind…but that seems intentional, and works well. The future scenes with X-Force are fairly slick, and I do like the distinctiveness. The present-day scenes are probably my favorites.

The story seems fairly simple and generic in that this is “just” another chapter in the ongoing crossover Second Coming. This continues from the previous chapter, and leads into the next chapter; we get forward movement in the crossover, but as a shared story, there’s not a whole lot moving whatever the New Mutants story is along, that I can tell. Again, as with the art…this isn’t a bad thing…perhaps because I have no real interest in this title standing alone, don’t know the newer characters, and picked this up as Second Coming Chapter 11 rather than New Mutants #14. Despite that, I really don’t feel lost–and the unfamiliarity is something I expected for this story, since I barely touched the X-books after Messiah Complex. I enjoyed the interaction with Rogue and Hope–the characters seem well suited for each other, and could make for an interesting friendship in future issues.

All in all, another solid chapter of Second Coming. I’m not yet sold on whatever the story is that’ll immediately follow this arc’s conclusion, nor the next big story with the vampires. Still, this keeps me interested in Second Coming, and I’m very, very interested to see what unfolds next week. This issue’s cliffhanger also reminds me somewhat thematically of the season finale to the first season of the 1990s X-Men animated series.

If you’ve already been following New Mutants, or are following the Second Coming main story, this is not an issue to be missed. If you’re not following this, you’ll probably be better off waiting for the next arc.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Overall: 8/10

Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth #12 [Review]

Writer: Victor Gischler
Pencils: Bong Dazo
Inks: Jose Pimentel
Colors: Matt Mills
Letters: Jeff Eckleberry
Cover: Arthur Suydam
Production: Taylor Esposito
Asst. Editor: Sebastian Girner
Editor: Axel Alonso
Published by: Marvel Comics

Deadpool and the gang find themselves in a bit of a race–both literal and figurative–to get back to the chopper and get to the portal so they can go home. While Deadpool’s group deals with their immeediate threat of Zombie Prof. Veronica, the surviving AIM agents plot how to get home, since they need Deadpool as well. When the groups converge, negotiations are had, a deal struck, and things still don’t really go according to plan…but then, Deadpool’s involved. What plan can really be had for things to go according to?

The art has a cartooney yet modern flair to it. The characters are pretty distinct, and it’s not hard to follow the action. Nothing much really stands out, as even the gorier parts fit within the atmosphere of the story. As with any character interpreted by multiple artists across different books, Deadpool’s got a mildly different appearance here than in other books–it in no way takes away from the character, but the style may not entirely fit one’s personal tastes. I do prefer other takes on the character slightly more, but this is not a bad look for the character. The zombies look properly creepy and messaged up…and as a whole, the art does fit itself with the story.

While I referenced above the idea of things not going according to plan where Deadpool’s involved, the writing does show a plan that stretches beyond just a single arc. While there was a distinct split-point, this arc specifically builds on elements from the opening arc. I’m not sure I’d read anything by Gischler a year ago, but he has quickly become my favorite Deadpool writer, capturing the chaotic, whimsical nature of the character (and the multiple voices) while building a relatively long-term story within a couple of smaller arcs.

Though this was begun as an ongoing series and has since been retroactively deemed a 13-issue limited series (something I’m not thrilled with)…this issue actually feels like a penultimate chapter of something big…and taking prior issues along with this, I would hope there’d be an oversized single-volume hardcover for this series.

If you’ve been following the series so far, this is certainly worth picking up. However, at issue 12 of 13, if you’ve not been following along, I’d recommend holding out for a collected volume.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Overall: 7.5/10

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