3.14.07 Reviews - Part 1
Stormwatch: PHD #5 (DC/Wildstorm): Continues to be the best title coming out that's connected to the main Wildstorm Universe. The fill-in artist initially disrupts the flow of this book, but Matthew Smith's pencils are actually quite nice, boasting a strong (early) Sean Phillips influence with some blocky angular lines and a very consistent line. I wouldn't mind at all if he stuck around to pencil this book indefinitely. Really a lot of fun to see a behind the scenes look at how this incarnation of the team was formed by Jackson King and Christine Trelane, with some nice nods to a decade old story about the final crossover showdown between Stormwatch and the Aliens (yes, those Aliens!) and the recent Captain Atom: Armegeddon series that rebooted the Wildstorm U. Under the leadership of Christos Gage, this is a surprise hit that's one to watch! Grade A.
Lone Ranger #5 (Dynamite Entertainment): This book is still firing on all cylinders with beautiful covers that are all poster/pin up quality from Cassaday, lush interiors from Cariello, and vibrant writing from Brett Matthews. This issue we focus on the strong influence Tonto had in shaping the Ranger's development and in the way he controls how justice will be doled out to those deserving. It's nice to see such focus on early career moments, even if it does feel a bit decompressed, will surely read better in the hardcover collecting the first six issues. Can't wait for that! Grade A-.
Tales of the Unexpected #6 (DC): As usual, The Spectre story is fairly middling and not terribly impressive. It's aided a little this time out by an appearance from The Phantom Stranger and really pushing the creep factor. Also as usual, the Dr. 13 back up story remains the only reason to be buying and enjoying this book. Who knew Azzarello had an ear for such humor or such great meta-commentary? My favorite panel is when Dr. 13 boards the subway (looking suspiciously like Clark Kent), and is surrounded by Wolverine, Daredevil, and Peter Parker types. This thing is filled with classic lines like "A vampire gorilla with fascist leanings. That is pure gold!" or "A medic? What we need is a spatula!" My favorite line had to be from what can only be described as the Puerto Rican Pirate: "I sabing som tyme for joo slug'irl. I wan' to teeckle joor feelerz wit' my tonk... make joo screm!" And finally, my crush on the cutest comic book girl ever, Traci, who saves the day (but don't tell her dad, shh!). The Spectre: C+. Dr. 13: A+. Overall, Grade B+.
New Avengers #28 (Marvel): This was an extremely fun issue. Bendis nails the witty banter, provides plenty of action, a great blend of cast, and Leinil Yu's art has never looked so brilliant. He's employing some unique page layouts and detailed art which simultaneously looks smooth and finished, while being gritty and sketchy. It's refreshing to get back to a fun team up book, even amid events related to Civil War and Captain America's recent "death." My only quibble is that I've read the issue three times now and still can't figure out the sequence of the Tokyo and Harlem segments. Grade B+.
Punisher War Journal #5 (Marvel): Picked me up some back issues of this title out of a dollar bin recently and really enjoyed them, so I decided to give this a go. Olivetti's art is a little hard to get used to, but once you settle in it has a nice balance. There is the dirty, worn, street level quality that a Punisher book needs, coupled with a... dare I say it, Alex Ross level of photorealism that lends some credibility and believability to the proceedings. Fraction's script is like most of his other books right now (and I mean that in a good way, I'm a fan, I swear!) in that it has a likeable wit and sarcastic edge, but that's balanced with some insightful points and meta-commentary on the industry, on the media, on what it means to be Amercian in a post-9/11 world, etc. He also incorporates recent Civil War events as seamlessly as possible. In short, this is a little more than you'd expect from a typical Punisher book. What a pleasant surprise. Grade B.
PS - This next point isn't really directed at Fraction and the Punisher War Journal crew, but hit me after reading it and a slough of Marvel books this week. What's up with the look of the SHIELD Helicarrier? Depending on which book you're reading, sometimes there are 4 engines, sometimes there are 6. Sometimes they point up, sometimes they point down. Sometimes they're on the side of the craft, sometimes they're underneath. Sometimes there is a landing strip on top of the carrier, sometimes not. Sometimes it looks like a traditional floating aircraft carrier, sometimes it looks all futuristic like it has Sh'iar technology. I'm all for artistic license and everything, but how about some consistency guidelines from Marvel Editorial on one of the most prominent vessels in the Marvel Universe?
Wonder Woman #5 (DC): What we got here is your standard filler issue before Jodi Picoult's run begins. It is ultimately inconsequential and harmlessly forgettable. It also lacks the usual clever charm of a Will Pfeifer script and has some promising, but uneven art from newcomers (to me, at least) Geraldo Borjes and Wellington Diaz. Grade C+.
The Confession #1 (Marvel): I'm sorta' sick of all the Marvel one-shots surrounding Civil War. If you can't easily answer the question, how would they logically be collected, then the material needs to be in a regular issue of the Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, etc. Bendis reveals his roots here and his influences are paper thin, smacking of a conglomeration of good movie lines. Tony essentially makes a point about "I will burn this village in order to save it," which is from the movie Primary Colors. Cap then goes onto explain that in the modern age, "the true enemy is war itself," which is from Crimson Tide. We then slide a little Garden State in with the often emulated line, "so there's that." While it is nice to be finally offered some additional insight into whatever the heck Tony was thinking, it really raises more questions than it answers. If Tony foresaw the war, why didn't he try to stop it? It's kind of like Reed having an Infinity Gauntlet and doing nothing to stop the war. Are we making a point that you can't escape fate? Did Tony's vision become a self-fulfilling prophesy? Is that what Cap meant by "you birthed it into existence?" There are a few beats here that I enjoyed and Alex Maleev's art is as strong as ever, but ultimately we're left with a trite conclusion that degenerates to "well, you're a sore loser," which is horribly out of character. It also sounds like a swipe from Aaron Sorkin's (another Bendis fave) A Few Good Men, wherein Lt. Caffey retorts completely off topic to Jack Ross when he's argued into a corner, "well... you're a lousy fucking softball player, Jack!" Grade C.
Grifter/Midnighter #1 (DC/Wildstorm): I'll caveat this by saying that you all know I'm a huge Wildcats fan, so my interest here was squarely with Grifter. But one ugly thought kept swirling around my brain as I read this: What's the point? This book doesn't need to exist. We get what feels like 20 pages of Midnighter introduction. Yes, he's a badass. Yes, he's a member of The Authority. Yes, he's gay. Yes, he's an archetype for Batman/Wolverine. Yes, his lover Apollo, is an archetype for Superman. Yes, "Batman" and "Superman" are getting it on. Surely anyone reading this book knows all of this. Then we get a paltry 5 pages of Grifter. Where he has some sort of mind control powers. Umm, what? When did that happen? He's been shown post Wildstorm U reboot in Wildcats and that wasn't the case; why is a major shift in the character happening in an ancillary title? Then in a surprising move, Chuck Dixon's (who I typically enjoy, nothing Earth shattering, but like a good ham and cheese sandwich, just enough...) opening caption for the Grifter sequence is "Manila. That's in the Philippines, stupid." Umm, nothing like insulting your reader's intelligence to make them want to buy the book. This mini-series needs to get itself to a quarter bin ASAP. Grade D+.
52: Week Forty-Five (DC): Oh, it's all just wearing on me. "El Presidento?" Was that meant to be funny or just a bad gringo writer's version of Spanglish? Should be "El Presidente." Since when do the Bialyan Armed Forces use US M1 Abrams tanks? Wouldn't they be using second hand Soviet T-72's still? And sorry, but the panel to panel storytelling, sans dialogue, just isn't clear. What the hell are Black Adam and the Marvels carrying on about in the first couple of pages? No idea. It also bothers me that we're suddenly showing Amanda Waller, Alan Scott, and half the Royals from Checkmate with no explanation. Isn't it a little late to be introducing new characters to this mess? And last time we saw the Chinese heroes was a good five issues ago. Which brings me to my main point here. As I've said numerous times, there are far too many plot threads in motion to be satisfactorily resolved. Some guy on the interwebs even compiled a list of like 100 thus far unanswered questions that the 52 series has posed, at the time of the list's creation, and based on the number of issues left, that meant that a major item would need to be resolved on every other page of every issue for the remainder of the series. Somehow I don't see that happening. The thing about Special Event books like this is that they're not "special," they're just events for events sake. They're merely springboards for the next in an endless succession of events which lack substance. What was Infinite Crisis about? I don't know, but it led us to One Year Later. What was One Year Later about? I don't know, but it led us to 52. What is 52 really about? I don't know, but it will lead us to World War III. What will that be about? I don't know, but it's already leading us to Countdown. And so on. And so forth. At the end of the day, I just feel like I'm watching The X-Files or Lost, where the hope of answers leads invariably to more questions that ultimately go unresolved. Fans are just being led on, right now DC is a chic I'm dating who's promised to one day give up the kitty. It's elusive and I want it, but she has no intention of delivering the goods. DC is content to just make out for now. DC needs to learn a few new vocabulary words. Terminology like "conclusion, closure, denoument," or just a good old fashioned tidy "end." A logical conclusion to the ideas that have been introduced; have a complete cohesive thought for God's sake. In other words, tell a story which has a finite and identifiable end - in *one* book. Oh, and Dan DiDio, hey man, caught your note to the "DC Nation." Why the fuck would I want to walk around the San Diego Con wearing an orange button from the Island of Retardo Montalban, collecting all four so I can redeem them for a "special" Darkseid button so I can redeem that for a comic or poster? You mean those posters and comics you hand out at the Con for free anyway? The ones that litter the Con floor and are stuffed into waste bins all over the Convention Center? Yeah, ok. If you want to really get people involved in the DC Nation and incentivize people wearing them, how about you offer to publish somebody's story idea in an anthology book or as a back-up story somewhere. Next thing I know, you'll be offering POGS of Deathblow again like it was 1994. Grade D.