Wednesday, September 30, 2009

CBR Review: Die Hard: Year One #1

I recently reviewed Die Hard: Year One #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "I went back and read this issue again, ignoring all of the captions, including McClane’s and, aside from one scene near the end of the issue, very little information was lost. A few specific details about characters that could easily be worked into dialogue are left out, but nothing more. Even John McClane’s narration tells us little that isn’t already communicated in his interactions with his training officer and citizens. Chaykin opts to spend the issue telling us what’s important and what we need to know instead of simply showing us, and trusting the reader to pick up the necessary details."

You can read the rest HERE!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

CBR Review: Existence 2.0 #3

I recently reviewed Existence 2.0 #3 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Nick Spencer and Ronald Salas pull off an interesting trick with the conclusion of Existence 2.0 by continuing to make the story of Sylvester, the amoral scientist who transferred his brain into the body of Marko, the assassin who killed him, more complex with intricate twists and turns, while maintaining a simple concept at the story’s core. Man in hitman’s body. Nice, easy, simple, and, yet, the story continues to add up surprises, double-crosses, and betrayals, culminating in a poignant end."

You can read the rest HERE!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Splash Page: Wednesday Comics Week 12

So, mine and Tim's run of Splash Pages at CBR end this week when we discuss the final issue of Wednesday Comics. You can read the column here. It's been a lot of fun and pretty cool to have our stupid little discussions go up on CBR. I'm kind of surprised that people enjoy them so much since Tim and I agree 95% of the time and the other 5% are minor disagreements... like our ranking of the strips in Wednesday Comics. The two lists aren't identical, yet very similar. Very little conflict between Tim and I... so we create it with other people... like in this week's column where Tim asks a question he knows ahead of time I will answer in a ranting, angry way... and loves every minute of it.

That link again: the Splash Page: Wednesday Comics Week 12!!!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

CBR Review: Detective Comics #857

I recently reviewed Detective Comics #857 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Is there a better art team in comics than that of J.H. Williams III and Dave Stewart? Williams’ detailed, exquisite line work combined with his inventive, intricate layouts, and Stewart’s painterly, stylistically malleable colors make for one of the best-looking comics each month, one that doesn’t sacrifice storytelling or clarity for its stylistic flourishes. Add eight pages of Cully Hamner and Dave McCaig in the book’s second feature and Detective Comics remains an art appreciator’s dream come true."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Superman/Batman #64

I recently reviewed Superman/Batman #64 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "'Um, what?' I muttered, having finished Superman/Batman #64. I didn’t quite understand the point of the comic I had just read and still don’t. Is this a lead-in to a crossover or event or regular story? What is this? The title of this comic is 'Prelude to the Big Noise: Three Months Away,' but no indication of what that means —- in this issue or from DC —- has been given. Of course, that wouldn’t be that large a problem if this issue was a good read, but it’s not. It literally reads as a prelude to a larger story, one that could be coming at some point in the future... possibly... maybe?"

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: No Hero #7

I recently reviewed No Hero #7 and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "After the horrifying, shocking final pages of No Hero #6, how this series could possibly end loomed high in the minds of many readers. After a character rips out the spine of another and attaches it to his groin as a substitute penis, where exactly do you go? Thankfully, this Warren Ellis we’re talking about, so he manages to up the carnage and make a point in the process."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

CBR Review: Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #15

I recently reviewed Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #15 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "My personal favorite story is Ben Jones’s 'Boo-tleg,' which has Apu and Sanjay kill off almost everyone in Springfield with poison bootleg candy and then replace the dead bodies with bootleg people that are hilariously wrong. Ralph’s use of bootleg shampoo leads to the obvious, but still funny joke of 'This shampoo smells like real poo.' Jones’s bootleg citizens are inventive and funny as Springfield becomes a very strange place to live -— and a city where dogs are hunted for their tasty, tasty meat."

You can read the rest HERE!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

CBR Review: Spider-Woman #1

I recently reviewed Spider-Woman #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Spider-Woman #1 is a good first issue, but it feels six months out of date. Delayed to give time for the motion comic adaption to be completed, this book was meant to be a follow-up to Secret Invasion, as Jessica Drew deals with the problem of her identity stolen and used by the Skrull queen as the face of the invasion. It’s a great idea, but one that required a timely release for it to pack any punch. Nearly ten months after Secret Invasion ended, it lacks that punch."

You can read the rest HERE!

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Bought Comics: September 16, 2009

[Less reviews than reflections, rants, random thoughts...]

Batman and Robin #4: So, Greg Burgas has thrown down the gauntlet and I am picking it up to smack him in the face with it. If you've seen Robin Hood: Men in Tights, you'll know that getting smacked in the face with a gauntlet hurts like a sonuvabitch. The issue: Philip Tan's art, which I don't really like. Some say that Morrison writes for Tan's strengths here and (this is actually an idea I want to explore in greater detail at some point -- just warning you), having read work by writers who do gear their writing at artists (like Warren Ellis), he doesn't here. Nothing about the way that this issue is written suggests to me that Morrison changed a single thing for Tan since the pacing, the scenes, everything is much too similar to the first three issues... to Morrison's work with Tony Daniel and Andy Kubert... And Tan isn't really any better than Daniel was... Want examples? Well, let's examine the opening scene of this issue, shall we?

Page 1, panel 2: Odd perspective problems where it looks like Lightning Bug's hand/gun are closer to the man than the man's own hand... despite the first panel clearly establishing that Lightning Bug is standing up straight, a couple of feet from the man on the ground.

Pages 2 and 3: Bravo to the ambition to depiction this frantic chase/running away in a layout that highlights just how frantic it is... but Tan's skills aren't at a level to pull it off. Take the bird bit, which I nearly missed the first time I read it because the panels are practically buried or that the upper left-hand corern of page three could have been used better to give the other panels more breathing room. Never mind the spatial issues on the second page where Lightning Bug goes from the ground to atop a building... when it looked like he was just hopping a wall?

Pages 4 and 5: Scarlet's movement at the bottom of page 4 is done awkwardly and terribly. Lightning Bug's face is the sort of graphic ugliness that has personified DC's output for a while now... and is just ugly. Not in a good way, just in an ugly way.

Ugh... I don't have the energy for this. Look at the party pages and tell me this guy has any storytelling skills involving people. Look at Gordon's awkward wave and facial expression...

Is this the absolute piece of crap art we all feared? Nah, but it's not far off. It's Tony Daniel-esque work, which we all can live with but would rather not. Tan surpassed/met expectations by not churning out pages that I could draw better, but the bar was set pretty damn low... clearing it isn't much of an accomplishment when you consider that this is a Big Selling Flagship DC book. Especially when he doesn't clear it by a whole lot.

I could tell what was going on for most of this book. Most. Not all.

The colouring also reminds me of the colouring during Daniel's tenure on the book. The highlighting of red, white, and black -- especially at the end. Morrison's writing is good, but doesn't sing because of the art limitations. Which is a shame, because Morrison's script places a lot of onus on visual nuance and people's expressions here and Tan doesn't pull those off. At all. Ever.

So, there, you go, Greg. Happy?

Edit (I said this to Greg in the comments of his post): Like I said, I think this issue relied on subtle nuane between characters at times... which is a flaw in Morrison's writing as I'm not sure he knows exactly what he wants either. How are we to take Grayson's body language in the party scene? I couldn't tell what Morrison and Tan were going for really -- in the art or writing, honestly. I liked Morrison's dialogue in the Red Hood/Scarlet scene, but Tan's art (his choice of angles a lot of the time) brought it down.

Captain America Reborn #3: Say what you will about this book, it contains 31 pages of story, so there's not to be any bitching about the extra buck charged. Nine more pages for a buck means that this comic costs 12.87 cents per page compared to a 22-page comic at $2.99, which comes to 13.59 cents per page. Not that any of those figures matter one fucking bit to me, but it does to some of you morons, so schtum! What matters is content and it's decent. Some action, some plot movement, albeit not that much. Sharon Carter continues to behave like an idiot, but what else is new. I liked last issue's cover more -- and had no problems with Captain America choking out Hitler from behind. Not heroic? PFT! More like most heroic act ever! You make that fucker tap out and then go to town on him. Hitch's art in this issue is a bit rougher than usual and his Namor is grotesque -- in a good way. I love how the gutters in the past are black, but are white in the present. Nice subtle indication to let you know what timeframe you're in. I'm digging this book.

Dark Avengers #9: Bendis handles the Ares/Nick Fury confrontation well, playing off some of the groundwork he's laid over the past few years. Did we get a subtle indication that Ares can make himself invisible/unseen? I love that Ares is the one thing that the god of fear is afraid of... The end of this issue is the first time that Bendis has approached the level of creepiness/fucked-up-ness of Ellis's Thunderbolts. And Mike Deodato is just so perfect for this book, although some of his layouts are a little too out there in places.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #5: Speaking of 'out there layouts'... or, more properly, speaking of the lack of out there layouts, I miss Marco Rudy on this book. Cliff Richards does a fine, steady job. His figure work and drawing ability isn't that much worse than Rudy's, but Rudy did some fantastic layouts in the first three issues that really added to the mood of scenes... and Richards's layouts are boring in comparison. The writing on this series is still obtuse, but quite interesting. Tom keeps going back in time to discover the truth about Electric City and to test his limitations... I am looking forward to next issue, so I can reread all six issues in a single sitting and see what to make of this series. Ambitious and experimental... we'll see if Ivan Brandon can bring it home in the end.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

CBR Review: Unthinkable #5

I recently reviewed Unthinkable #5 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "One of the more interesting, stunning books to come out this year, Unthinkable has flown under the radar for the most part, but, if you didn’t read this series, you missed out on a very well-crafted story, breathtaking art, and a finale that’s satisfying and thought-provoking, much like the rest of the series. Mark Sable uses the post-9/11 world to his advantage and that incident as a jumping off point, an instigating event for the entire book."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Ultimate Comics Armor Wars #1

I recently reviewed Ultimate Comics Armor Wars #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "After last month’s relaunch of Marvel’s Ultimate Comics line with books written by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar, the primary architects of the imprint, adding a third book by Warren Ellis seems like the logical follow-up since, after Bendis and Millar, Ellis has had the largest impact on the universe writing books like The Ultimate Galactus Trilogy, Ultimate Fantastic Four, and Ultimate Human. Ultimate Comics Armor Wars is an added sign that Marvel means business with this relaunch and the first issue is a solid, impressive start."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CBR Review: Batgirl #2

I recently reviewed Batgirl #2 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "When setting this comic on my desk for easy reference while writing this review, I found myself looking at the cover and, in a sympathetic tone, saying, 'Oh, Batgirl, you’re not a good comic...' I wanted to like this comic. It has energy and a fun feel to it as Stephanie Brown struggles to earn her place as the new Batgirl despite Barbara Gordon’s objections. It’s a concept that could go far, but the execution is so heavy-handed and sloppy that it’s lost under rushed scenes and confusing moments."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: The Lone Ranger #18

I recently reviewed The Lone Ranger #18 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Originally, I wasn’t going to read this issue let alone review it, but, then, I read the preview pages and was immediately impressed by Sergio Cariello’s art and slow, methodical pacing of the opening pages. Not only that, but they work incredibly well as a teaser that makes you want to read what happens next. And, thankfully, what happens next matches up to the initial pages in quality."

You can read the rest HERE!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CBR Review: Thor Annual #1

I recently reviewed Thor annual #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "I imagine there are two audiences interested in this book: Thor fans and Peter Milligan fans. Thor fans will most likely enjoy some of the ideas in this issue as it examines the fall-out of Thor #600 in more detail, specifically Thor’s reaction to killing his grandfather. Milligan fans should avoid this comic, because this isn’t Vertigo/X-Force/X-Statix Peter Milligan, this is ‘superhero mediocrity’ Peter Milligan. It’s not that good, rather middle-of-the-road, forgettable superhero fare. It’s an annual; what do you expect?"

You can read the rest HERE!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

CBR Review: The Unwritten #5

I recently reviewed The Unwritten #5 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The Unwritten #5 is a break from the regular ongoing plot of the series, which normally focuses on Tom Taylor and his search for the truth about himself, as the book jumps back a century to focus on British writer Rudyard Kipling in an effort to provide some context for Taylor’s adventures and more information on the world of the comic. The story, itself, is affecting and deep with every aspect of the comic working together in perfect sync to tell how Kipling rose to popularity and suffered for it."

You can read the rest HERE!

Friday, September 11, 2009

American Widow

Steve here.

About a year ago I quit writing comic reviews for the website I used to write for, PlaybackSTL. I didn't choose to quit writing reviews for them, and it's not like they fired me either. In fact, my editor has been pestering me to come back for the year that I've been gone.

No, I quit writing for them because I hit a huge, tremendous block that I couldn't overcome. That block was the graphic novel American Widow, easily one of the worst graphic novels I've ever read. But I didn't know how to write the scathing review the book deserved and remain sensitive to its subject matter, the story of a woman who lost her husband on September 11.

But after living with this book in my headspace for a full year, I finally was able to overcome my mental block and finish the review. You can read the review at this link, if you wish. And in fact I wish you would read it, because even after finally getting it out there, I'm worried it might be a bit too negative, a bit too controversial in its criticism of a 9/11 widow's book. I'd like to hear your opinions, but be warned: it's long.

to entice you to read further, here's a paragraph out of the middle of the essay:

"The book as a whole is incredibly unclear. I asked the rhetorical question earlier, "Who am I to pass judgment on her reactions to this horrible event in her life when I don't know what she went through?" But that's just it. I wouldn't pass judgment if I did know what Torres was going through. But despite the fact that she wrote a book about the situations she encountered after her husband died, I still can't say I comprehend her perspective."

I Bought Comics: First Two Weeks of September 2009

[Discussed below are some comics I haven't already reviewed from September 2nd and 9th. Not reviews proper, just some thoughts.]

Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #2: I'm not entirely sold on this yet though I will get the final four issues, because I'm enjoying it enough. Roland Boschi's art is just wonderfully twisted and energetic. Aaron's writing swings wildly between lame 'Heaven's been conquered by a rogue angel' plots and cool, fucked up horror fun. The inability to mix those two in a satisfying way is a big flaw in his run -- at least for me. Not sure about Hellstrom's makeover.

Greek Street #3: Trust in Milligan... I tell myself that, but this book isn't cohering yet as I would like. I'm giving it to issue six to win me over. It's still all over the place, not really providing the key character or scene to hook me. Also, I'm getting sick of the muted, bland Vertigo colouring.

Strange Adventures #7: Compare the cover art inked by Rob Hunter to the interior art inked by Al Milgrom and join me in hoping Hunter is never allowed near Jim Starlin's pencils again. Christ. I'm torn between calling this a return to form by Starlin and calling it a self-parody. Elements from his Warlock run show up as Starlin switches from his favourite topic, religion, to his second-favourite, psychology. His depiction here and in last issue of the Weird's psyche is interesting, but nothing mind-blowing or that innovative. This series is a lot better now than when it began, though. The rotating art for the back-up has bugged me, but that's the way it goes.

Sweet Tooth #1: Another Vertigo first issue offered for a dollar, so how could I resist? The concept of this book didn't really wow me ahead of time and the issue itself was better than I was expecting, but still not my thing necessarily. It was interesting enough that I'll pick up the second issue and see where things go there. I feel like this debut needed to be double-sized like The Unwritten or Greek Street -- hell, the preview for this comic was the end! They gave away the end to bring people in! That's odd. I will admit that part of my sticking with this book a little bit longer is Tim's love of Lemire's work -- and that Lemire is originally from the area where I live currently.

Dark Reign -- The List: The Avengers #1: David Uzumeri and I discussed Marko Djurdjevic's work here yesterday on Twitter and it's good. David, correctly, gives credit to inking from Mark Morales who does a much better job than Danny Miki did on Djurdjevic's Thor work. No bad attempts at hyper-realism, just crisp, clean art. A more liberal use of inks give this a more cartoony look and it works quite well. Definitely Djurdjevic's best interior work yet. The story is okay. Clint Barton making a raid on Avengers Tower to kill Norman Osborn. Spider-Man continues to be whiny as fuck in his protests. Bendis walks a good line between telling this story and spoiling the events of the current New Avengers arc... Overall, a very solid issue that I dug.

Ultimate Avengers #2: I would call it "Ultimate Comics Avengers," but the cover and the legal indicia, this comic is called Ultimate Avengers, so... A decent issue that fills in some backstory, but doesn't really advance the plot much. I do love the suggestion that Gail's dad got out of the house so she and Steve could have sex. The man understood his role in the war effort. This new Red Skull is interesting, but I hope he turns out to be a bit more complex than 'daddy wasn't there when I was a kid,' because that doesn't quite explain his behaviour. The variety of inkers hurt the art, which varies in quality from page to page. It never gets bad or anything, it just doesn't keep a consistent look is all. I am interested in seeing this group of Avengers that Millar puts together, like Tony Stark's older brother.

That does it for now.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

CBR Review: The Marvels Project #2

I recently reviewed The Marvels Project #2 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The Marvels Project #2 advances a lot of plot threads that will ultimately come together to form the tapestry of the early Marvel universe, but the lack of connection means that each is still very thin. In these early stages, it’s easy to see that the story will read better once the various plots have converged, but, here, it feels like Brubaker is skimming the surface, providing only highlights from each plot rather than delving into any."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus #1

I recently reviewed Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The ultimate conclusion to the confrontation is well thought out and has Scott hitting Osborn on his level, one that Osborn has used continuously throughout 'Dark Reign' to maintain his position of power. Not only that but anyone who wants to see Cyclops and Osborn as the Iron Patriot go at it will get their wish. The actual matching up of Osborn’s forces and the X-Men are handled well overall, featuring some unexpected pairings, but smart ones."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Thunderbolts #135

I recently reviewed Thunderbolts #135 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Finally, for those who demanded it, Norman Osborn and Nick Fury begin to deal with one another directly after their first meeting was alluded to in Secret Warriors #7. With Osborn in charge of HAMMER, the reworked, rebuilt SHIELD, a confrontation between the two was inevitable and should make for a great story as Andy Diggle and Miguel Sepulveda suggest in Thunderbolts #135 where only a taste is given."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Red Robin #4

I recently reviewed Red Robin #4 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Tim’s search in the present has one or two bright spots like him not knowing how to operate on an international scale, dealing with police and the military in foreign nations. The idea that living and working in Gotham his whole life has sheltered him somewhat is an interesting one worth pursuing. While some may not like his alliance with Ra’s al Ghul here, Yost depicts it well with Tim questioning the decision numerous times and doing everything he can to distance himself from that union while also taking advantage of it. The conflict that he has over working with al Ghul is presented strongly."

You can read the rest HERE!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

CBR Review: Young Liars #18

I recently reviewed Young Liars #18 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "That’s that then. Young Liars has finished and we’re all poorer for it. A brilliant, challenging, ambitious, audacious, flat-out insane series that, let’s be honest, lasted longer than anyone really thought it would, but is still taken before it’s time. Nothing new about that, I’ve had it happen to me at least once a year for the past decade, that’s life in the fast-paced, high-risk, hope-and-pray-quality-catches-on world of professional comic books. Still, that doesn’t make it any easier. In fact, quite the opposite. Reading the final issue of Young Liars is a knife in the guts, a reminder that this is it, no more next month, enjoy these 22 pages, because that’s all you’re getting. It’s a good thing that David Lapham crafted a brilliant, challenging, ambitious, audacious, flat-out insane comic to end with. Who would expect anything less?"

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Incognito #6

I recently reviewed Incognito #6 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Phillips, as always, is masterful here. His use of light and shadow mixes with his facial expressions to lend characters a weight of reality that most comics lack. While these people may be in fantastic, unreal situations, Phillips’s depictions of them always reminds us that they are people, which makes Brubaker’s characterizations work that much more. This is a brighter issue than most of Phillips’s recent work, but that gives him a chance to alter his compositions and show that he doesn’t just work in the shadows, he can draw, well, anything anywhere anytime. The man is just that damn good."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

CBR Review: Strange Tales #1

I recently reviewed Strange Tales #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "My favorite story here, though, is Nick Bertozzi’s '...And Call My Lover MODOK!' a delightful four-page story that spans decades in the life of MODOK, one page per decade as he struggles to make advancements in his quest to rule the world or kill everyone or whatever it is that MODOK wants, and balance that with his girlfriend’s wants. It’s simple, poignant, and very funny."

You can read the rest HERE!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

CBR Review: Exiles #6

I recently reviewed Exiles #6 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The team that Parker put together for this book is certainly interesting although a bit scattershot with variations on Forge, the Beast, Polaris, the Scarlet Witch, and Black Panther joining Blink and Morph. As this book hurtles toward its conclusion, each of the character is given a moment or two to shine. Without going into spoilers, Parker manages to solve the ‘something isn’t right with Blink’ subplot effectively, while also bringing the team closer together and energized with renewed purpose. How he does so does get a bit too involved and may lose readers by boring them, but if you can stick through the three or four pages of explanation, the rest is a joy."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: The Boys #34

I recently reviewed The Boys #34 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "In the conclusion to the four-part 'The Self-Preservation Society,' the Boys take on the final remaining member of Payback (the Avengers-like group tasked by Vought-American to eliminate the Boys), Stormfront —- aka ‘Nazi Superman.’ While the other members of Payback were handled with swift, deft brutality by Butcher last issue, Stormfront is a much larger threat, having already put the Female in critical condition and, well, ‘Nazi Superman’ sums up his threat level fairly well. Things get a bit messy as you can imagine."

You can read the rest HERE!