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Wonder Woman #27 [Review]

Rise of the Olympian part 2: A Sense of Loss

Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Aron Lopresti
Inker: Matt Ryan
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Associate Editor: Sean Ryan
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Aaron Lopresti & Hi-Fi (variant by Frank Quiety [sic])
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue opens on Donna Troy communicating with Wonder Girl about what she’s likely to find as she heads toward the scene of destruction Wonder Woman was last seen at. Warning Cassie about the need to mourn AFTER what needs done is done, we see the girl’s reaction as Donna continues toward her destination…where Wonder Woman is alive, but horribly beaten, anxious as her lasso’s been taken from her. We see others’ reaction to events, even as the creature that did this to Wonder Woman returns to the Secret Society [of Supervillains?] HQ. The creature is known as Genocide, and insists the lasso be made a part of it. Meanwhile, Zeus calls some of his people “home,” while Genocide faces the Justice League.

All told, I have no real problem with any of the art in this issue. In fact, it’s really quite good on the whole. There’s a slight bit of “shiny-ness” to certain parts that seem to me would probably work better without coming across that way–but then, I’m not the artist, and I assume there’s supposed to be something there that would reflect light that way. The characters are distinct and recognizeable, and you could do so much worse!

The story here is what surprises me. I can’t really put my finger on what it is exactly, only its effect: I’m actually interested in a Wonder Woman story. I was interested in the concept of a new character that was to be “Wonder Woman’s ‘Doomsday,'” and when I discovered I’d actually missed the first chapter, made a point of snagging issue 26 along with this one. For the first time in several years–moreso than merely enjoying an issue, I’m interested/engaged enough that I wish the next issue would be due out this coming week! Simone seems to have a good handle on this character and her supporting cast (and I’ll admit I think it’s cool that a woman is writing the character).

I’m unsure as to who the Olympian in the story’s title is–Diana? Genocide? Someone else?–but to be honest, that doesn’t bother me at all. If you’re not already picking this book up, and you can locate the first issue of the arc, this is a decent point to jump in.

Recommended–at least consider the collected volume if you’re not interested in the singles.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 8/10

Batman #683 [Review]

Batman: What the Butler Saw

Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Lee Garbett
Inker: Trevor Scott
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Tony Daniel)
Publisher: DC Comics

DC could really benefit from a “previously” page. I know I say that quite a bit, but it’s something that–especially in the contemporary written-for-the-collection environment–just seems so very practical that I still don’t quite “get” why they haven’t followed Marvel’s example in this.

This issue resumes the journey to certain points throughout the history of Batman as the imprisoned Batman struggles against his Apokaliptian foes. As the struggle climaxes, we see what’s been happening in this post-RIP story–and also get clarification as to what DID happen at the end of RIP.

While I’m not that familiar with Garbett’s art–nor is he Tony Daniel–the art works here, and being the same as the previous issue feels less a departure than continuation with the “new” or “different” art team’s style. This isn’t the greatest art I’ve ever seen, but it is far better than a lot of what can be found in certain other comics.

Having had a couple weeks to cool after the disappointment of RIP’s conclusion, this feels slightly less the trainwreck I declared the previous issue, though this issue holds a similar disappointment as we now have to follow Batman into Final Crisis for his story (and presumably for whatever has led to the RIP arcs in Robin and Nightwing as well as the upcoming Battle for the Cowl and whatnot).

The writing is also slightly less frustrating here–where the previous issue was choppy and lacked context, this issue actually reveals what is going on, which provides perfect context for the choppiness, and shows that Morrison is perfectly able to deliver short stories with payoff instead of dragging stuff across numerous issues.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a jump-on point, though if you’re following Final Crisis and want more of what happen(s/ed) to Batman after that early issue he was taken off the board in, this arc’s for you–it is, after all, marked with “Final Crisis” on its cover.

The cover is another fine image from Alex Ross…and another that I feel is quite poster-worthy.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7/10

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! [Review]

Words, Pics, Heart: Mike Kunkel
Letters: Steve Wands
Assoc. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Jann Jones
Cover: Mike Kunkel
Publisher: Johnny DC (DC Comics)

This issue picks up with Billy–as Captain Marvel–sitting around ready to play hookey from school. Mary convinces him to go in due to identy and detention issues. While serving detention, Billy helps some other kids stuck in detention before Theo Adam strikes, still seeking the magic word to transform himself back into Black Adam. As a dangerous schoolyard-bullying act plays out, Mary innocently slips, and we’re reintroduced to Captain Marvel’s nemesis, Black Adam.

The story here is at once fairly complex and yet quite simplistic. In other words, kids or adults ought to be able to enjoy this…better yet, adults oughtta be able to enjoy sharing this reading experience with their kid(s).

The art has a simplistic style to it while conveying a good deal of emotion–and motion. Visually and story-wise, this feels like it ought to be serving as the comic-book counterpart to an animated series. And while I never really cared for the anime-styled Teen Titans show, a Shazam/Captain Marvel animated series would thrill be quite a bit.

This is definitely a good series for the younger crowd, yet should be fairly enjoyable to older readers. I’m actually enjoying this book more than many other “regular” DC titles these days. And in this day ‘n age, you simply cannot beat the price, either!

We do get a “to be continued” on this issue, but on the whole it’s quite a good read, with plenty of dialogue TO read and numerous panels per page rather than constant splash pages and few panels per page.

Taken seperately I my not generally like the story or art as much…but taken on the whole, I really enjoy this. The book is more than its individual parts. Very much recommended!

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8.5/10

Spawn #187 [Review]

Endgame part three

Writers: Todd McFarlane, Brian Holguin
Pencils: Whilce Portacio
Digital Inks: Todd McFarlane
Color: Jin Han
Lettering: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Todd McFarlane
Cover Artists: Whilce Portacio, Jin Han
Publisher: Image Comics

This sets a new record for me, as the first time I have ever bought three consecutive issues of this title. While the previous couple issues weren’t bad despite my lack of context and knowing who characters are (helped by recognizing the Clown/Violator character), it’s starting to wear a bit thin with this third issue of the arc.

The issue opens on a reporter pressing his boss’s buttons as he seeks a promotion; we then see that patient that woke upon Al Simmons’ death terrorized by a super-powered/supernatural bounty hunter…as outside people speculate what the green flash was that was seen as others wonder if explosions in the hospital are terrorist-related.

The story–as said–is starting to wear a bit thin…I’m not a huge fan of long periods reading a comic without knowing/recalling characters’ names. I do hope there’s more development soon that draws me in, as this issue feels the weakest of these three that I’ve read this time checking in on the title.

Visually, nothing all that new to say–the style works well with the narrative, having a linework that fits the supernatural nature of parts of the story without losing its “grittiness.”

All in all a decent issue–I’ll give a couple more before I drop this again, as I’m interested conceptually at where this title can go and how a new Spawn might emerge from all this.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t feel quite strong enough to justify recommending staying on-board/jumping in if you’re not otherwise interested. If the story’s not grabbing you, no need to bother here; if it’s got your interest, this issue does keep things moving forward somewhat, just not in leaps and bounds.

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

Hellblazer #250 [Review]

Happy New F***ing Year, Christmas Cards, All I Goat for Christmas, The Curse of Christmas, Snow Had Fallen

Writers: Dave Gibbons, Brian Azzarello, China Mieville, Jamie Delano, Peter Milligan
Art: Sean Phillips, Rafael Grampa, David Lloyd, Eddie Campbell
Letters: Sean Phillips, Jared K. Fletcher
Colors: Val Staples, Marcus Penna, Jamie Grant, David Lloyd, Dominic Regan
Breakdowns (Snow Had Fallen): Giuseppe Camuncoli
Finishes (Snow Had Fallen): Stefano Landini
Asst. Editor: Brandon Montclare
Editor: Bob Schreck
Cover: Lee Bermejo
Publisher: Vertigo (DC Comics)

If you’re gonna charge me $3.99 for one issue, this is the way to go. 38 pages of actual story content, high-quality creative teams (multiple instances of quality Hellblazer talent), contained in a milestone issue that could be an event and yet isn’t an event. This is the longest-running Vertigo title, this is the milestone 250th issue of the series–an extremely respectable number in a day ‘n age when only a handful of titles in all comics have maintained consistent numbering while reaching such a point. Focusing in on Christmas (“holiday, sure, but there’s a lot of reference by name to Christmas!), we get five shorts showing John Constantine in slices of life, just being himself around Christmas.

I checked out a couple years ago from buying the single issues, finding that I was enjoying this series far more through the collected volumes; I’ve fallen behind on those collected volumes, so am not up to date on recent happenings for this book. That said, I feel like I only missed nuances here. The character, the feel and tone of Constantine is still there. The stories fit the character. And though just picking this up for the “special” nature of the issue, I don’t feel out of it nor lost.

The first story follows Constantine as he pursues someone who has been assembling stuff to invoke immortality for himself–the price of said immortality likely requiring the life of a child. In Christmas Cards, John watches a game of poker he himself is banned from–offering commentary and observations none the less, as well as the nature of a couple of people present. All I Goat for Christmas suggests a ritual that may have broken the curse on a certain sports team seemingly cursed right out of any championships. The Curse of Christmas shows an encounter Constantine has with someone who managed to work an actual curse into an address given by a very public official. Finally, Snow Had Fallen details a fairly magical sort of snowfall that challenges the faith of a man overseeing sick children.

All five stories have that “classic” Constantine feel to them. They’re sorta slice-of-life due to being short and not part of some big event–these are the sorta things John deals with routinely in his world/experiences, specifically around Christmas.

The art varies, giving different visual styles, different visual interpretations of Constantine & Co. The first three–by Phillips, Lloyd, and Grampa respectively–are probably my favorites, as they get across a certain feel of darkness or grittiness that seems particularly appropriate for their stories. The fourth didn’t work very well for me visually–personal preference, probably. The final story’s visuals were not bad, but had something I can’t quite put my finger on–perhaps a bit of brightness–that simply didn’t put it in the top three for me of this issue.

All in all, this works very well as an anniversary-style issue. Rather than hosting a huge event, this serves also as a “holiday special” with the focus of the tales. And the tales are provided by Hellblazer creative teams from throughout the years.

Whether you follow this series regularly are are merely aware of the character’s existence, this seems a great issue to pick up as a one-shot, whether you plan to continue with the next issue or not. Besides….you could do so much worse for $4. I give this issue an extra half point as a whole–the package is greater than any of the individual parts.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8.5/10

Supergirl #36 [Review]

New Krypton part eight: Death in the House of El

Writer: Sterling Gates
Penciller: Jamal Igle
Inker: Keith Champagne
Colorist: Tom Chu
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Joshua Middleton (variant by Chris Sprouse, Karl Story & Laura Martin)
Publisher: DC Comics

After a brief reunion with parents she already thought were dead, Supergirl finds herself facing the death of her father, assassinated during an attach on the Kryptonians by Reactron and Metallo. While the loss is mourned, other more sinister elements build toward fruition, and Supergirl meets a Kryptonian calling herself Superwoman and wearing a mask.

This issue plays nicely within the overarching New Krypton story, while having plenty of space to do its own thing, focusing on its primary character. Given the recent “fixing” of the problems with her earlier appearances half a decade ago, this issue gives us a chance to move forward after those and give some development to Supergirl’s character as she faces the loss of her father–something her cousin is also dealing with in his own life…perhaps a point that’ll help bond the two in whatever’s to come.

The art is a mixed bag for me. Perhaps a personal thing, but something just gets me about the way characters’ ears are drawn that puts me off. Other than that, the art is quite good, and fits the story quite well.

On the whole, this is a solid issue. While Zor’s death could have just been an action point in the overall story, this issue allows for that to be dealt with in greater detail–a strength I’m seeing in this story as elements that most impact someone are dealt with by a creative team that will be playing with them the most. Whether you’re falling just this title, or the New Krypton story, this one’s well worth picking up.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

Air #5 [Review]

The Engine Room

Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist & Cover: M. K. Perker
Colorist: Chris Chuckry
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Assoc. Editor: Pornsak Pichetshote
Editor: Karen Berger
Publisher: Vertigo (DC Comics)

Having been unexpectedly rescued from an unplanned predicament, Blythe finds herself discovering a whole world she’d never known was present, right within the world we all know. After several issues of curious elements cropping up, some secrets are finally revealed–including a last-page doozy that promises plenty of fun potential for this series as it continues.

The story has been a bit of a slow build–with perhaps an extra issue’s worth of context being laid out that probably would have benefited from coming later in the sequence to get us to this point. So far, this isn’t something I’d consider the greatest story I’ve ever read–but while I can’t put my finger on it, there’s something to this that has brought me back four issues more than I’d intended when I decided to check out the first issue.

The art has a certain realism to it without getting so realistic that you forget this IS a comic. The detail is nice and clean, with a soft color pallet complementing it without overwhelming it. No complaints from me on the visuals.

On the whole, this is a fairly interesting new series that started out simply as a premise, but is quickly showing its potential to have a rich, deep mythology about it. It’s certainly worth checking out, though it’s probably not for everyone.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1 [Review]

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist and Cover: Alex Maleev
Color Artist: Dean White
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Production: Joe Sabino
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

A week late and a dollar short…that about describes this.

Picking up where Secret Invasion #8 left off, this issue follows the “dark Illuminati”–a group of fairly villanous Marvel characters that serves here as a counterpart to the Illuminati group revealed in the “Road to Civil War” era. We see what Norman is willing to offer these individuals, and for what price, as well as some of their initial reactions to the offer and what they could do with it.

The story isn’t too bad–for what it is. What it is isn’t all that much–basicaly just a wordier description with pictures of the “premise” behind this whole “Dark Reign” thing kicking off (a sentence about what brings each character to the table would suffice).

The art is fairly stylistic–not something I’d consider terribly realistic, though it is by no means bad. It’s got a gritty feel to it that seems out of place for characters I’d consider to not be part of a “gritty” story. On the whole, though, you could get a lot worse. The main weakness is that Namor doesn’t look like Namor–he looks to me like some drunken, unshaven guy off the street put in Namor’s clothes.

As a whole, this issue is almost entirely uninteresting. I was only slightly curious as to what details might be provided heading into Marvel’s Dark Reign event, and enjoyed Bendis when I read Ultimate Spider-Man, so was thinking a “talking heads issue” given the context would actually hold me interest and feel like a good story. This felt quite short…only 26 pages of story, plus NINE pages of “previews” for three other titles.

This was NOT worth its cover price to me–better to have paid $2.99 for the main story and have NO previews. Hardcore Marvel fans and those actually enjoying the overall direction the Marvel Universe has been taking will probably enjoy this, especially if picking up a bunch of titles from across the Avengers/X-Men families of books. If you’re a casual fan or not chomping at the bit for stuff following that last page of Secret Invasion, don’t bother with this issue. The previews and price actually detract from the overall experience of the issue for me, hence the final rating falling below the story/art ratings.

Story: 6/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 5.5/10

Detective Comics #851 [Review]

Batman: Last Rites – Last Days of Gotham part 1 of 2

Writer: Denny O’Neil
Art: Guillem March
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Guillem March & Tony Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue seems to introduce a new character–at the least, I am unfamiliar with this character, not having read this title much in a lotta years. This character has elements dating back to the Gotham Earthquake (Batman: Cataclysm), and also has Two Face back in action, even as a doppleganger apparently is running around using his name. As the last guy to really deal with Two Face and with Bruce missing, Nightwing answers the call of duty and goes into action.

There’s something to the art in this issue that makes me think it’s got some manga influence, as the visual style puts me in mind both of that and some sort of adaptation of some cartoon I can’t think of. The art’s far from bad, though it being a bit stylized turns me off to it somewhat. Characters that I believe are intended to be recognizeable are, while other characters seem to look as they should based on what I get from the story’s context.

The story itself is something I really wanted to like, given this brief return by Denny O’Neil. Unfortunately, this issue just didn’t work for me, and I found myself having to force myself to read each page instead of skimming over to get to more interesting stuff. This feels like a fill-in; whether it is or not I don’t pretend to know; though the fact that it’s to be continued in an upcoming issue of Batman is rather telling. If you’re a longtime fan of O’Neil and steeped in Bat-lore from around the Cataclysm stuff and are a fan of Two Face, you’ll probably enjoy this. I came in as someone fresh off Batman: RIP interested in seeing the impact the absence of Batman himself has on everyone, and just was not engaged by the story.

All in all, a fairly disappointing issue for me, though I hope I’ve contextualized that above. The cover is what I must credit with drawing me in, combined with realizing O’Neil was penning the story–this cover image would make a great poster, I think.

Story: 7/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 6.5/10

Action Comics #872 [Review]

New Krypton part seven: Brainiac Lives

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Pete Woods
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Steve Wands
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Gary Frank & Brad Anderson (variant by Chris Sprouse, Karl Story & Guy Major)
Publisher: DC Comics

Superman continues to interact with his cousin, aunt, and uncle over the recent strikes launched against his various enemies, which resulted in the death of a number of humans and the banishment of numerous bad seeds to the phantom zone. Plans are revealed to restore the other “bottle cities” as well that had been captured by Brainiac. While Luthor continues attempting to tap the knowledge/repository that is Brainiac, some militant Kryptonians continue pushing their agenda. As things spring into motion, some “Creature Commandos” are woken in a time new to them (as they were last seen during World War II, it seems). Finally, a strike by Reactron and Metallo shows that not even Kryptonians are safe on Earth.

This is probably my least-favorite chapter of this story so far. I think stuff is starting to wear a bit thin, or is just developing too slowly, somehow. I was particularly turned off by the “startling return of the Creature Commandos”–I don’t mind a “back-door pilot” here and there, but I cared nothing for these characters going in, and care nothing for them now–they seem very out of place and more suited for a period piece set in World War II, not waking up during this arc and taking some of the focus away from the Kryptonians dealing with life on Earth.

The art–while not confusing characters or anything and clearly showing what’s going on–seems also like a letdown after being spoiled with Gary Frank’s art the last number of months. It’s a real change, and the style doesn’t work all that well for me, at least not in this particular outing.

This is the seventh chapter of however many will make up the New Krypton arc. I find myself ready to see things wind down if this is how my attention’s going to be. Whatever it’s lacking, though, this is still quality stuff…just not as high as earlier chapters to the story.

Story: 6/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 6.5/10

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