All Star Superman #9 (DC):
Watch our Mr. Toad, because Mr. Morrison's wild ride continues, with his influx of big, bold ideas, complete with crystal spires and a cracked moon. The common thread for me this issue seems to be Morrison looking at the Superman mythos momentarily from different perspectives. Jor-El is characterized as "a young and ineffectual dreamer." The safeguarding of Kandor, the city in a bottle, is viewed as oppression of the superior Kryptonian culture. The guise of Clark Kent begets a wide chuckle as Lilo and Bar-El (throw away characters under anyone else's less thought out direction) describe it with: "What kind of self-loathing degenerate disguises his true nature to snort and shuffle amond subhumans? Have you abandoned all dignity?" Quitely's pencils are still gorgeous with their lean elegance and refined detail, topped off with Jaime Grant's superb coloring. Morrison continues to craft a Superman for a new generation; the Superman of the new millennium, truly the Man of Tomorrow. Grade A+.
DMZ #25 (DC/Vertigo): Brian Wood really scores in the collaboration department here by landing Danijel Zezelj; his symbolic, strong imagery is a perfect companion to the war torn cityscape of Manhattan. As this arc continues to show, there is plenty of room for exploration of hidden corners and bit players of the DMZ. This time out, we get a great tale of one man's opportunistic quest within a power vacuum. Grade A.
Legion (IDW): Salvador Sanz offers up an interesting story about the culmination of artistic events that brings about the apocalypse. The striking cover art featuring an otherwordly host descending upon the Earth is backed up by strong interior art that boasts a rich, European quality, reminiscent of the Humanoids line of books. There are spots in the art where I can see the influence of Carla Speed McNeil in the characters and the organic stylings of H.R. Giger in the background designs. There is a creepy as hell coronation sequence with visuals that really feel alien and desperate; the feeling that "all is lost" is captured very effectively. There's a lyrical premise that is well written as the protagonists transcend one too many boundaries with their art: "Art is a destructive force; the motion of war and annihilation." I want to spend more time with this book, taking in the lush visuals and discerning further meaning from the splendid text. Even with a strangely high price tag of $7.49, Grade A-.
The Circle #1 (Image): Brian Reed & Ian Hosfeld hit the stands with charming swagger and a little attitude, evidenced by lines like "Sorry, but I'm a stickler for correct pronunciation." The story relies a little heavily on narration vs. dialogue, which *could* be dense and slow, but is instead really engaging. The story hums right along in a sort of gleeful way from set to set, revealing the creators' video game backgrounds. The art has great muted colors and for some reason reminded be of the simple emotive lines of the old G.I. Joe cartoons I grew up with. I'll definitely give it a couple of issues. Grade B+.
The New Avengers #36 (Marvel): Leinil Yu's art is as fun as ever, although you do have to accept the fact that Jessica Drew and Natasha Romanov apparently run around Stark/Sentry Tower together in their bras and panties all the time. On the scripting end, hrmm... if the chemical bomb was aerosolized, it wouldn't just attack your body via skin pores (as Luke Cage points out), it would also be capable of being ingested through intestines or lungs, so umm, everyone would have been infected with the Venom Symbiote thing, even Cage with unbreakable skin. Jessica Jones keeps dropping hints about Carol Danvers and Jessica Drew that seem to go nowhere. There are some obvious allegorical relationships (Latveria = Iraq, Chemical Bombs = WMD, and The Mighty Avengers = The United States) that play kind of obvious, an obligatory shower scene between Drew and Logan, and... I don't know. There's a last page reveal with like every New York based hero, even a couple X-Men, and Howard the Duck thrown in. This all may make sense and read well collected, but for now it feels disjointed and like Bendis is throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. Grade B-.
Titans East: Special #1 (DC): Oh, Ian Churchill, with your first page boobs flailing about and your g-string visible 2 inches above the waistline of the jeans... (sigh). But, you did draw a pretty mean Robin. And Bizarro looked just about right. And I confess, I really dug the sexy look of the new Hawk & Dove. I read somewhere online that DC Editorial's new long term plan is to elevate the first line DC heroes (Supes, Bats, Wonder Woman, etc.) into "New God" status, which would then promote the second line (Nightwing, etc.) to take on the mantles of the first line folks. Logically, this would create a vacuum at the third tier (Titans) that would need to be filled. That makes this new incarnation plausible. But then, it seems we're introducing the old Titans, only to replace them with this crew, but then they all get killed off. I'm confused. Decent, but feels unfocused. Let's hope that the follow up to the crazy cliffhanger straightens it all out. Grade B-.
Batman & The Outsiders #1 (DC): I usually like Chuck Dixon's scripting (loved his Nightwing run), but here it seems a little weak. With the exception of Katana, I don't feel that he has a mastery of these characters' voices. There also seems to be a disconnect between script and art. Katana's uniform on the cover doesn't match her uniform on the interior, that's just... weird. Metamorpho comments at one point that something looks like a burrito (which is odd to begin with). But, it really doesn't. It looks like a big metallic claw with a giant red egg with spikey things on top of it. How the hell is that to be confused with a burrito? The Martian Manhunter feint was decent (although it was previously used in Justice League Task Force), but that gets negatively balanced by the telegraphed conversation between Batman and Thunder, with his easily read verbal trap. The art is competent, but not terribly memorable. No reason to come back here, Grade C-.
World War Hulk #5 (Marvel): If you accept this book purely on a superficial level, it can be pretty fun. It's got all the big bang spectacle and tight crisp pencils from John Romita Jr. Unfortunately, there are quite a few unresolved dangly bits because there doesn't seem to be a clear statement that the book wants to make. Here we have a large metropolitan city (which I can only assume and *think* was previously mentioned as New York) completely devastated by a rampaging Hulk, tons of superheroes, and The Sentry's "power of a thousand exploding suns." Hundreds and thousands of occupants would have been killed in this melee (sorry, a throw away line indicating evacuation doesn't cut it, that would take hours, if not days), yet there is no mention. It's a bit hypocritical that children dying in Stamford, Connecticut is the catalyst for Civil War, but thousands of New Yorkers dying doesn't even get a comment. Is Rick Jones dead or alive? That looked like a pretty fatal wound, not sure. Is Robert Reynolds alive? Not sure. Has the Hulk been vanquished? What's to become of his band of fighters from Sakaar? There's all this solemn talk of "making a choice," but it's not clear what choice Sentry or Hulk or anybody is making here. The book is trying desperately hard to attain gravitas, but falls short. Is Hulk a hero because he stopped Sentry or is Sentry the hero because he stopped the Hulk? Is Tony now a hero because he stopped Hulk? Are Reed and Tony forgiven because they didn't actually cause the nuclear devastation on Sakaar? Did the Sentry really have a deathwish? Did the Hulk? Was the true point of this series to comment on warfare in the modern age? Karl Von Klauswitz's theory that in war the only true enemy is war itself? Was this all embedded commentary about mutually assured destruction? These questions are wildly posed, but none are clearly answered. Remember when a mini-series was self-contained and didn't require following a full page of 9 other tie-in books, IncREDible Hulk, and Skaar: Son of Hulk? Romita's art is as pretty as ever, especially in the daunting task of depicting the "thousand exploding suns." But due to the loose scripting, a pretty looking, but muddled Grade C-.
I also picked up;
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier (DC/Wildstorm/ABC): This was originally solicited, what... a year and a half ago? I'm excited to read this, but I'm being very careful to ignore all the publishing controversy and really focus on whether or not the story is any good. Let's hope so!
Ex Machina: Volume 6: Power Down (DC/Wildstorm): Not much to say here. Ex Machina keeps chugging along, with the high and low points of any series, but overall a very strong title that has the potential to raise the level of public debate in this country with its broad spectrum analysis of contemporary social issues. Pick it up!