Sunday, November 27, 2011

CBR Review: Ultimate Hawkeye #4

I recently reviewed Ultimate Hawkeye #4 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The Celestials and Eternals comprise two camps of superhumans created by the SEAR, each led by one of two twin brothers, Xorn and Zorn. The Celestials are dedicated to peace and enlightenment, while the Eternals are more aggressive zealots. Much of this issue is dedicated to setting up their existence and role in the Ultimate Universe as a place that could lead to the transformation of humanity (the ‘Deviants,’ as Zorn calls humans) into something greater, opening their doors to anyone who wishes to come to the cities. They even offer the Source (the serum that gave them powers) freely, setting up something akin to what the Inhumans were without the xenophobia and closed borders. Coupled with the Children and their expanding City in The Ultimates, the Ultimate Universe could look very different in a year."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: The Unwritten #31.5

I recently reviewed The Unwritten #31.5 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The Unwritten #31 began 'The War of Words' and, during that story, the title shifts to a twice-monthly shipping schedule. The main title will continue that story while the ‘point 5’ issues will shed light on the background of the conflict, beginning here with three short tales about the cabal that Tom Taylor is fighting against. Taken from the journals of Wilson Taylor, these three stories present a brief history of the cabal’s methods of control, first by suppressing ideas and, then, by using literature and media to manipulate ideas. With three incredibly talented artists joining Mike Carey and Peter Gross, The Unwritten #31.5 is a sign that these ‘point 5’ issues will not just be essential history lessons but entertaining and clever comics."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Secret Avengers #19

I recently reviewed Secret Avengers #19 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "In one of those ‘only in the Marvel Universe’ Eastern European countries that border Latveria, Steve Rogers and three of his Secret Avengers take down a local mobster with what appears to be a super-soldier serum for sale. They need to do it before the Shadow Council buys it and, to make things easier for them, all of the mobster’s men have used the serum. The premise is very simple and Ellis twists it as much as he can, right down to how the criminals get their superpowers and emphasizing that these are not the regular ‘superhero comic villains.’ If you’ve wanted to see Moon Knight purchase the services of a prostitute to maintain his cover, well, Ellis is more than happy to oblige you."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: The Mighty Thor #8

I recently reviewed The Mighty Thor #8 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "After Fear Itself #7.2 introduced the new status quo for Asgard going forward, The Mighty Thor #8 expands upon that status quo and begins to form an actual story out of the disparate pieces. This first post-Fear Itself issue doesn’t just build upon the event, it has strong roots in Matt Fraction’s tenure on the title so far. With his original Thor collaborator Pasqual Ferry back providing art after returning last issue for the story of Odin and the Serpent, this issue is a good start to what looks like a promising story."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sketch Reviews (November 24 2011)

Man, this past week, I pissed off Batfans with my CBR reviews. Funny thing: it didn't even occur to me that I was reviewing three Batbooks until my review for Red Hood and the Outlaws #3 garnered a "Nevett strikes again!" reaction on the CBR forums. My favourite part is the hate mail and the chance to respond with absolute literalism. That's always fun. But, I did want a break from comics a little, so I took Tuesday off from Random Thoughts. I went shopping in Detroit instead. I've long blasted the States for its lack of potato chip flavours, but, this time, it countered with many different M&M flavours not found here. I'm loving these dark chocolate M&Ms -- because, clearly, dark chocolate is the superior chocolate. Anyway, let's get to some new comics...

Annihilators #3: Damn, this comic is reading like the big event book Marvel should have pushed to the forefront instead of Fear Itself. It's pretty easy to see how this could have been made 'bigger,' especially the Magus taking over a third of the US population -- throw in an issue where it's the Avengers vs. a bunch of heroes and villains that are part Magus and you could kill plenty of time. Instead, it's a nice little mini-series mostly ignored. Ah well. [***1/2]

Captain America & Bucky #624: As always, gorgeous, fantastic art from Samnee and Breitweiser. The story is less a story than some fragments shoved together, especially the end of the issue with Bucky's sister. [***1/4]

Justice League Dark #3: What's so crazy about recruiting Mindwipe? I'm not familiar with the character... I'm enjoying this book, but think I would have been better off tradewaiting it. It's moving at such a slow pace across so many characters that it's hard to get too enthused over each new issue. [***]

RASL #12: DANGER DANGER HIGH VOLTAGE! Lots more Tesla talk and I'm completely okay with that. An interesting issue -- and an educational one! [***1/2]

Scalped #54: We keep walking towards our death... [****]

Vengeance #5: No Russian supersoldiers during World War 2... because the Red Skull killed them all in a camp during the war. Everything is connected and we move towards Latveria... we all know who Z is, of course. The way that Casey blends together all of his work in this series is fantastic -- same with the arrogance and self-doubt of youth he captures so well. Miss America calls She-Hulk a 'puta' rather than accept a ride home from the sixth dimension... goddamn, this is just some good comics, son. [****1/4]

Wolverine and the X-Men #2: I don't know why, but I'm a little bothered that this is the first time Iceman tried that trick and it works perfectly. Still, nice to see Jason Aaron actually pushing things a bit. Just some crazy fun this comic... Bachalo captures the manic chaos better than almost anyone else. [***3/4]


Monday, November 21, 2011

CBR Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #3

I recently reviewed Red Hood and the Outlaws #3 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Red Hood and the Outlaws #3 is a more interesting comic conceptually than it is in execution. When I think about the issue, I find myself liking it; when I flip back through it, that enjoyment disappears. Conceptually, it’s a straight up action book with a flashback for each of the main characters that helps shed some light on their personalities and adds depth to each of them; in execution, it’s a fluffy comic with unlikable characters that spout off flip remarks that carry little weight and go through the motions in a quest that’s presented as trivial. The flashbacks don’t add nearly as much depth as they’re supposed to, either. That disconnect between the idea and the reality ultimately makes this an interesting comic in a unique way, but not terribly good."

You can read the rest HERE!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

CBR Review: Catwoman #3

I recently reviewed Catwoman #3 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The issue begins with Selina tied to a chair, captured by a midlevel gangster named Bone who has beaten Lola MacIntire to death to obtain information both on Selina and the items she stole from him. From there, the issue follows a rather predictable trajectory: Selina escapes, beats up some henchmen, goes after Bone, wants to kill him but is stopped, and there’s probably some moral lesson about revenge, killing, or something like that in there that you’ve heard a thousand times before. The only surprising thing about this comic, honestly, is that Lola is left tied to the chair she was beaten to death in rather than placed in a refrigerator."

You can read the rest HERE!

Friday, November 18, 2011

CBR Review: Fear Itself #7.3

I recently reviewed Fear Itself #7.3 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Of course, the undoing of these events (even if they were always meant to be undone) comes off as a slap in the face to some degree. Nothing is permanent in superhero comics, but to undo some of the big moments in an event in its coda? That’s somewhat unheard of. And Matt Fraction seems aware of that in this issue. Tony Stark visits the imprisoned Grey Gargoyle, who decimated Paris while one of the Worthy, and debates what his responsibility is in a situation like this. Should the villain face trial, spend the rest of his life imprisoned, or should he be killed? Does the role of the Serpent’s hammer act as a mitigating factor? And, by the end of the issue, does Odin’s undoing of what was done change anything?"

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sketch Reviews (November 16 2011)

Keeping things extra sketchy this week...

Avengers #19: Interesting new line-up. Even though he created her, Daisy Johnson doesn't 'feel' like a Bendis character anymore, does she? I chuckled at the Vision taken aback by Red Hulk. Or, Spider-Man and Wolverine realising that they're not on this team anymore. Daniel Acuna does some fine work. I kind of wish this issue and issue 18 switched covers, though. That final panel is a killer -- totally unfair. [***3/4]

The Boys: Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker #5: A strong follow-up to last issue. Ennis wasn't lying when he said this would be a great series. And Darick Robertson handles the emotion fantastically. [****]

Captain America #4: As always, when a weird different reality is introduced, I immediately lose all interest in the REAL world. I could read many comics about Captain America's different 'dream worlds' that reflect his best hopes and his worst nightmares. Digging Steve McNiven's art... [***1/2]

Deadpool MAX II #2: When this series ends, we can have Cable MAX, yes? Fun game: when the preview for Avengers: X-Sanction starts, pretend it's part of this comic! [****1/2]

Severed #4: Gorgeous art and wonderful interplay of characters. The scene in the diner was just horrible -- in that good way, you know? [****]

Wonder Woman #3: I really enjoyed this issue. I don't have much to say beyond that. [****]


CBR Review: Batman #3

I recently reviewed Batman #3 and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Writer Scott Snyder, to his credit, is following the Batman formula to a degree, with this issue simply representing the most formulaic part of the story: a mysterious threat has revealed itself by trying to kill Bruce Wayne, and Batman follows up using a healthy mix of beatings, detective work and coincidental happenings. What can be done to spice things up and make Batman beating down a gang of thugs before intimidating a man for information yet again? Adding some metal face masks is Snyder's solution, along with some backstory on the gang, adding a little color to Greg Capullo's drawings of Batman making these supposedly hard, scary, professional thugs look like rank amateurs."

You can read the rest HERE! (Or, compare the two reviews CBR has for this issue!)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

CBR Review: Fear Itself #7.2

I recently reviewed Fear Itself #7.2 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "'Stories end. Stories begin.' That phrase is used more than once in Fear Itself #7.2 and sums up the entirety of the issue. Ostensibly one of three epilogue issues for Fear Itself, this one focusing on the aftermath of Thor’s death during his fight with the Serpent, it doesn’t so much end that story as it begins another. If anything, this comic is more a prologue to the stories that begin in The Mighty Thor #8 and Journey into Mystery #631 than an epilogue to Fear Itself, since everything new in it helps establish the new status quo, not provide closure on Thor’s death. The question: should any of us have expected anything different?"

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: New Avengers #18

I recently reviewed New Avengers #18 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "There’s a storytelling tendency in comics that’s come into vogue sometime during the last decade that’s driving me absolutely nuts: the need to explain every little detail. It’s not enough to tell a story anymore; everything that leads into a story must be examined and explained even if there’s no point beyond the explanation existing. Brian Michael Bendis does this from time to time, the most notable example being those retched Secret Invasion issues of New Avengers and Mighty Avengers that detailed how every Skrull infiltrated Earth. The stories were unnecessary and rarely interesting, because we could all fill in the gaps after the point in time someone was replaced was revealed. Something similar happens in New Avengers #18, where Norman Osborn recruits his new Dark Avengers."

You can read the rest HERE!

(Also, I know I wrote about this in my Sketch Reviews. After doing that post, I realised no one had signed up to review this and, since I had some strong views, called it and wrote a review.)

CBR Review: Magneto: Not a Hero #1

I recently reviewed Magneto: Not a Hero #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Magneto: Not a Hero #1 isn’t a bad comic. It is a mediocre, somewhat obvious comic. In telling a Magneto solo story highlighting his role as a member of the X-Men while reinforcing his not-so-heroic (hence the title) nature, Skottie Young delivers a story that’s fairly simple and not surprising in the least. Magneto has apparently slaughtered the attendees of an anti-mutant gathering, except he was somewhere else at the time. It plays upon his villainous past, while allowing the character to push forward and show that he’s changed. There’s nothing wrong with that approach; it’s merely the most obvious one."

You can read the rest HERE!

Sketch Reviews (November 10 2011)

"Autumn's Here" by Hawksley Workman is the song of the moment. Just like it is every year around now. I miss baseball.

Batwoman #3: Gorgeous. The writing is getting better, too. A little more suggestive than before. But, damn, that art... [****1/4]

Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE #3: The action bits were good, but this felt like stalling for time somehow -- maybe too much exposition. 'Part three' syndrome strikes again! [***1/4]

Journey into Mystery #631: Rather good writing. I like the way Loki fits into this new Asgard. And, probably the best art Whilce Portacio has done for this comic in his short time aboard it. Still not good in a lot of spots, but much more consistent throughout and didn't entirely ruin the issue. [***]

New Avengers #18: Just fucking get on with it. Norman Osborn gathers his new Dark Avengers and I couldn't give a fuck. Why? BECAUSE IT MEANS NOTHING. We don't need to see any of this. It's something about Bendis's writing that I've grown to hate: his inability to just get on with the story without showing every minute detail that went into the story happening. Just have the new Dark Avengers show up and assume they're on the team because Osborn recruited them -- how else would they get there? This wasn't interesting or insightful or anything. It was a complete waste of 18 pages before those final two pages, which were the only needed pages. Everything that came before was filler. Also: Barney Barton? What the fuck? (Wow, having looked the character up, he's real... and sounds pretty awful. At least Max Cash was interesting...) [*]

Point One #1: Oh, Marvel... Marvel, Marvel, Marvel... I've been fairly on board with what you've been pushing since Civil War. That event may have been godfuckingawful, but it was interesting and got me into a lot of your stuff and I've been a keen reader for years. That seems to be changing. 2011 was not kind. Fear Itself was just as godfuckingawful as Civil War except it lacked the interesting ideas and hook. (No, really, what was it about?) And, now, we have Point One (a horrible title named after a horrible initiative that you keep claiming is a success even though no one else can figure out the criteria for what makes it a success in any way, shape, or form), a preview comic, basically, that sets the stage for 2012. If this is any indication, 2012 will be even worse than 2011. Granted, most of what we see here either doesn't apply to the next big event or is something we've known is coming for a while. The Ultron stuff at the end was unnecessary since we've known that there's a big Ultron story coming since the first Avengers arc... and, then, since that 'point one' issue of Avengers... and this 'tease' added absolutely nothing. No context, little content -- what was the point? Showing off how effects can deliver two entire pages of 'shaky cam' art that looks like shit as a result? Great idea! Get Bryan Hitch to draw seven pages for you and, then, make two of them look like they were printed incorrectly. So, that's seven pages wasted. I don't really care about the Scarlet Spider, so those pages were just lost on me. That they were overwritten with horrendous narration didn't help. The Nova/Terrax/Phoenix bit felt like it was meant to have a purpose and didn't accomplish anything that the 'It's Coming' teaser didn't already... except show that there's a new Nova and he responds to the death of an entire planet with the phrase 'epic fail.' Better get used to hearing that phrase, Marvel. Fuck, better make it the catchphrase of 2012 if this comic is any indication. Okay, there were some things I liked. The mutant stuff looked great, but I couldn't care less about the story. The Doctor Strange thing has lessened my burgeoning enthusiasm for The Defenders following Fraction's Comics Alliance interview. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't good either. Is there something about working in the Marvel Style that makes writers suddenly cover pages with narration? It's like a fucking Stan Lee disease or something... I kind of dug the fire and ice twins story until they broke out. It went from intriguing and a little mysterious to pretty fucking goofy with the turn of a page... and I paid six bucks for this. Fuck me. [*]

Punishermax #19: You know, Frank Castle has a pretty awesome head of hair for a man his age and the amount of stress he lives with. Decent issue that only really got going near the end. The stuff with the Kingpin being isolated and perceived as weak was smart. [***1/2]

The Unwritten #31: The active nature of the story really worked up until the end when Lizzie is all "But Tom's only been doing magic for, like, a day! What if something goes wrong?" and then something goes wrong. Still, this is promising. [***1/2]


Monday, November 07, 2011

CBR Review: O.M.A.C. #3

I recently reviewed O.M.A.C. #3 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Once you get the tone of O.M.A.C., it’s easy to appreciate its directness and simplicity. Part homage to Jack Kirby, part big dumb action comic, and part weird superhero sci-fi comic, O.M.A.C. is mostly a Get In, Have People Hit One Another, Get Out sort of comic. Within that framework, Keith Giffen and Dan DiDio put the focus on entertainment and delivering an experience that can be enjoyed in 20-page chunks. The world of the comic is growing one giant slugfest at a time."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Stormwatch #3

I recently reviewed Stormwatch #3 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The moon continues to attack the Earth via projectiles fired from itself and a creature it's unleashed on Earth, itself. The source of the moon’s attack is apparently here to test and improve Earth’s defenses against some future threat. That creates a three-part attack for the team to handle, while keeping the story simple by having it all trace back to a single source. That sort of economy makes this a packed issue to read without overcomplicating things. The only problem is that threats presented are rather basic and not intrinsically compelling as challenges for a team that’s supposed to be as powerful and skilled as Stormwatch."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Sketch Reviews (November 3 2011)

Part three of the first Direct Message is below. Finally have two days off in a row, so these may be extra brief. I just began the final season of Married... With Children and have the urge to just plow through it. Then there's 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami and the time spent listening to Lulu by Lou Reed & Metallica (review at 411mania should be up tonight or tomorrow)... busy days. But in that good way.

Action Comics #3: What a cynical comic. The media turns everyone against Superman and the cops in Metropolis are openly corrupt. Is Morrison still in Batman mode or something? Also: goddamn, Rags Morales's art is awful. Sloppy, shitty work. (That's not terribly 'professional,' but it's about 300% more accurate than any 'professionally' worded critique.) The first issue that didn't quite work for both tonal and artistic reasons. [**3/4]

Animal Man #3: You know what DC loves more than Crises? Putting their heroes into longstanding legacies and groups. Every hero falls somewhere in a line. No one is new. No one is original. Everyone is in a family or a corps or a league that stretches back to the beginning of time. Hey, fuck you, Alan Moore. You ruined it. You fucked up. (Actually, I dug this issue. Foreman's art continues to get more fucked up and crazy, which suits the horror writing of Lemire. Lemire avoiding long bits of exposition is also impressive.) [****]

Avengers 1959 #3: Man, even before Doom, Latveria was fucked up. Two soldiers see an attractive girl and immediately begin arguing over the order in which they plan to rape her. What I love is that their argument sounds more like they're arguing over who will get the next round of drinks. Just a casual, friendly argument, because raping women together is not something out of the ordinary for these guys. That's fucked up. (In Chaykin-related news, I also got a full run of Cyberella, the comic he did with Don Cameron for the short-lived DC sci-fi imprint Helix. The complete run was marked at $10, but Retailer Tim gave it to me for five bucks. Good man that Retailer Tim.) [***1/2]

The Boys #60: The opening two pages are harsh. Wolverine killed the president. Mother's Milk life continues to be fucked. The revenge of the '90s. Decent issue. [***1/2]

Fear Itself #7.1: James is alive and I don't mind one bit. I love the people annoyed because it was a fake-out... when were they supposed to tell you? It only happened, like, four months ago. That's how fake-outs work. If they tell you right away then it's not a fake-out. The art here is fantastic. The writing was serviceable, though. So plot-driven that there wasn't much room for anything else. Good comic that was a nice little surprise with a great character still on the table. I assume Winter Soldier will replace Captain America & Bucky, because no one is stupid enough to think three ongoings featuring those characters could last. Two is pushing it. [***1/2]

Men of War #3: Just enjoy the ride, son... [***1/4]

Moon Knight #7: Oh, that guy an issue or two ago was meant to be Count Nefaria. I totally didn't get that, because, while talented, Alex Maleev doesn't draw characters so that they look like previous depctions. Ever. Entertaining comic. [***1/2]

Swamp Thing #3: The exposition train keeps a'rollin'... The art fill-ins were decent, but the writing was a bit plodding in spots. Snyder needs to find a way to either cut down on the exposition dumps or make them fit more organically into the book. Then again, this issue has that fantastic single page. You know which one it is. [***1/4]


Direct Message 01: A&C: DC Part Three

[Continuing the first in a planned series of discussions between myself and Alec Berry. Parts one and two...]

Alec Berry:Along with Animal Man, Wonder Woman was the highlight of the entire relaunch. At least for me.

That said... I have little to say about the comic because all that really hits me is … damn, that was good.

Wonder Woman just does what a comic book should, I think. When you break it down, the actual plot is fairly simple - gods are planning something big and some mortal woman, through destiny or fate or whatever, has been thrown into the mix - but the execution and illustration brings everything home.

For one, Cliff Chiang captures motion so well and turns what could have been a routine fight into a few pages of fast, hard hitting fisticuffs. He manages to characterize Wonder Woman through her battlefield tactics, and the way he depicts the character completely brings home the whole aspect of “Amazon Warrior.” I mean, there’s a panel where she head-butts a fucking centaur! Talk about a great moment. I think I clapped.

And, I mean, the script in terms of events doesn’t contain much, but I do respect Brian Azzarello here because he takes what’s really like three scenes and makes the comic feel heavy with content. He makes your mind work, along with Chiang, even though its an issue of centaur pillaging, and a lot of that has to do with being thrown into the world without being baby fed information. Read over the comic once more. Azzarello never explains who Wonder Woman is, why mythic figures run amok in what seems to be a world similar to ours, or what our supposed villain wants or gains from his oracles. Yet the entire comic book makes sense, and I never felt lost reading it.

The story conveys excitement, a world existing beyond ours, and a real sense of threat. Plus, Chiang and Azzarello work in some nice moments of horror. Horse decapitation!

And, hey, the book looks fantastic and does it’s job by way of those looks. Like a comic should.

Chad Nevett: Azzarello never explains Wonder Woman. He shows, he doesn’t tell. That’s what sets him apart from pretty much every other writer of these new books. He just presents Wonder Woman and expects us to understand her by what she says and does. Direct and simple. So direct and simple that I honestly don’t have much to say about Wonder Woman #1. Then again, it’s hard to talk about single issues by Azzarello. If you’ve read at least one of his books, you know that a single issue is just a small piece of what’s there.

‘Funny’ story: when Wonder Woman #1 came out, the guy at my shop, Retailer Tim, mentioned that I was the first person he’d come across in the store who liked Cliff Chiang’s art. And this was Thursday. He likes Chiang’s art, too, and we were both amazed that many customers actively hate his art. Comics fans, people! We’re doomed!

I did find all the talk about this book being ‘appropriate’ for little girls fun. Is fun the right word? It’s like, what, little girls can’t enjoy horse mutilation like little boys? Tim Callahan’s son loved this comic. Then again, I have no idea what little girls like -- I have no idea if DC was right or wrong for not trying to target an audience that doesn’t seem to care at all about their product in the vague hopes that someone somewhere will begin forcing it upon that audience because DC is making comics they’d love. I dunno. I guess I’m left wondering how many little girls comics lost because of a horse getting chopped up in this comic... listen to the internet and their numbers are legion, but I imagine it’s a bit less.

Though, who was the audience for this relaunch? Was it you and I? The lapsed comic readers? Little boys and girls? All of the above?

AB: The internet zeitgeist is really just that. The internet. The dominate tweeters, bloggers and podcasters may shout from the mountain tops of how great Chiang is, but in reality the internet opinion holds the minority. Why that is … I don’t know. Maybe we’re just paying more attention? Or maybe everyone does like Chiang, and you just live in a sucky area of Canada.

Questions, questions...

As for target audience? Whoo, boy. That’s the big question, isn’t it? I’d say a mix between lapsed readers and fresh faces. The TV advertisements said a lot. I mean, they included terrible music, but the way they flowed said to me, “hey, there are still comic books, and DC possesses the characters you’ll care about.”

I’m sure someone has written an immense article on such question. I’ll save everyone the pain.

CN: I never actually saw the commercial, mostly because I don’t care. That’s where I seem to be out of line with most people. I don’t really care about the business side of things. Like when the sales figures began to leak right away. Good for DC... I don’t have a horse in this race.

The question of who the target audience is interests me to a degree, because I’ve gotten into the mode of not caring if comics target anyone but me. I think it was around Final Crisis that I realised that here was a big event completely meant for me and that’s fantastic. I love comics that are meant for me. I don’t know what other people actually want, so I can’t even speak about if a comic effectively targets another type of reader -- and why bother? And I have to agree with you that this feels like it was meant for people who aren’t me. I’ve liked a bunch of books, but haven’t really LOVED any. There hasn’t been that one book that just completely wows me, that becomes one of those books that I can’t wait to read every month. I think that’s what disappoints me.

AB: I’m moderately intrigued by the sales. Usually I try to ignore the numbers, but in a case of this magnitude (and, come on, the purpose of this was a sales boost) I’m paying attention because, well, did DC accomplish what it set out to do? Did this relaunch really attract anyone new or boost sales? I feel its partially necessary to account the sales because in a holistic sense they are a vital piece of the relaunch.

But, hey, we’re here to discuss the quality of the actual content, and I think I can agree with you in your “nothing really wowed me” assessment. Although, I would give such ranking to Wonder Woman. I can’t wait to read the next issue. Besides it though, yeah, DC’s 52 is really just a collection of character spotlights with some moderate aesthetic pleasure. Then again, I never expected anything different. DC is all about property awareness with this push. They want people to know of their brands, and they would like those people to read and follow those brands. I believe there’s plenty of room for creators to still be creative in such an environment, but not much of what I read shouted creative shock to me. There were, however, plenty of solid super hero comics published in the 52. I mean, of what we’ve covered thus far, I’ve been fairly positive about most of it.
But back to my point of “aesthetic pleasure” … Honestly, I feel DC has enough skilled artists to make me buy some of their books. We’ve mentioned Travel Foreman and Greg Capullo. I would also say Jim Lee, Doug Mahnke, Francis Manapul, J.H. Williams, Alberto Ponticelli, Ivan Reis, and Freddie Williams fit the bill. While all the scripts these artists draw from may not light the world on fire, DC is still publishing some sharp looking comics, and that’s kind of enough for me at this point. You make a super hero comic look cool, and as long as the script is decent, I’ll purchase more than one issue.

Great examples are Flash and Batwoman #1. If you took away the artwork from these comics, they would read like any ordinary thing because the substance belongs to the visuals. Williams and Manapul both show their skills as visual storytellers via these first issues. Certain scenes in Batwoman - like the soap opera max father/daughter confrontation - come off as overplayed and forced, but Williams depicts them as Williams does and they feel exciting and new. Manapul takes his expected Flash chase scene and bumps it up to pure eye candy.

Both comics are complete examples of how great artwork can improve mediocre writing. It’s oddly refreshing because it leans the entire success of the comic book on, well, the panels. How odd is that for this writer driven age we inhabit? Kind of why I agree with Grant Morrison when he says the writer age is over.

CN: Is it weird that I still don’t really think of Batwoman as a NEW comic in the same way as the rest of the relaunch? It’s been so long coming that I almost see it as a carryover from before. I mean, it was on my pull list before the relaunch was announced -- it’s like considering Green Lantern by the exact same creative team a new entity in any way at all.

And the writer age isn’t over. What, because there are a few artist-driven books? I should damn well hope that, out of 52 books, many would have good art and a few would have great art. I expect the same of the writing. I think Action Comics is a fairly strong writer-driven book. Take away Morrison and you’re left with Rags Morales. The other side of that is something like Detective Comics, which is totally artist-driven... and lacking in both quality writing and art. I still don’t know why that final page is supposed to be cool or awesome or... even interesting. It baffles me completely.

But, you’re right, take away the art from a book like Batwoman and you’re left with a fairly middle-of-the-road comic. It makes me wonder how well the comic will function when Williams isn’t doing the art. I know a lot of people love Amy Reeder’s art... but she’s not in the same league as Williams. The zero issue was almost painful in its demonstration of that. And that’s a concern that spreads across much of the line. With word of short lead times, how long before some of these stacked creative line-ups are replaced with less-than-stellar replacements? I guess this relates to the question of sales as well: it’s all well and good to look at the first month, but is that a good indication about the relaunch and its impact? Or, should we return to the question in nine months and see where things are at?

AB: Nine months will say a lot about this entire move. About sales. About impact. About longevity. And, yes, about the creative teams.

I believe we’re already seeing a few of the cracks in the art consistency. Action Comics looks to be in a visual tailspin for the next few issues - until Andy Kubert steps in. Marco Rudy was supposed to pencil Suicide Squad, but that didn’t happen. Leading the book away from a solid visual look. David Finch seems to do whatever he can on each issue of his Batman title. Completely squashing the original intent of the comic.

The books to really make an impact will be the comics that maintain their creative teams - especially on the art side. It seems the smart books of the industry switch artists between arcs. Daredevil is the perfect, current example. If DC could work to the DD model, hiring a pair of similarly styled artists to go back and forth, the comics could come out monthly and still carry a consistency while looking nice.

But, hey, even though plenty of great illustrators remain unemployed, DC will stick to their usual stable of talent. Gotta maintain that house style!

Strict deadlines could be good, though. Artists may experiment with different styles in order to produce faster. Kirby did that. Kirby’s good.

I mean, if artists want to keep the job, they’ll actually need to sit down and hammer out the work. Job on the line … artists may adapt in interesting ways.

The interesting story is Jim Lee. Man of the company. Can he keep up? What happens if he doesn’t? Looks bad when boss man misses deadlines.

So, shall I drop thoughts on Justice League?

CN: I just want the end of All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder. Who chooses Geoff Johns over Frank Miller? What the fuck? And, yeah, talk about Justice League while I lay back and think of O.M.A.C. until it’s all over...

[The conclusion is up on Alec's blog...]

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

CBR Review: Uncanny X-Men #1

I recently reviewed Uncanny X-Men #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The schism has occurred and the new era of Uncanny X-Men begins two weeks after Marvel's long-running title saw the previous volume's final issue ship. Not so much a stunt to gain new readers (though that no doubt plays a part), the relaunch of Uncanny X-Men places it on equal footing with the newly launched Wolverine and the X-Men, showing that each group is acting parallel to one another, neither one 'better,' just different. Despite the harshness of the Schism title, the aftermath is one of mutual respect and coexistence, something this first issue makes quite clear as it lays out the new status quo and direction of the series. It's an entertaining first issue that draws upon past Uncanny X-Men stories while maintaining a new reader-friendly tone."

You can read the rest HERE!

Direct Message 01: A&C: DC Part One

[This is the first edition of Direct Message, the new series of conversations that I will be having with Alec Berry. Our first conversation is on the DC relaunch and will run four parts, alternating between our two blogs, over the next few days. Enjoy.]

Chad Nevett: Because the DC relaunch #1s haven’t been discussed to death, welcome to the first ever Direct Message. I’m Chad Nevett and you probably already know me from GraphiContent, my near-800 reviews for the two-time Eisner winning website Comic Book Resources, my Random Thoughts, the Splash Page, my writing on 411mania, and whatever other dumb thing I do somewhere online. Joining me is Alec Berry who co-hosts the Chemical Box podcast, posts on his blog alec reads comics, writes for his student paper, DJs for U92-FM, and... well, this. How do you like the pompous jerk persona I’ve put on for our discussions, Alec? Isn’t it lovely? Of course it is. We’re here to discuss the new DC first issues we’ve read. We overlap for the most part and differ in a few places, so it should be a mostly cohesive discussion with a few moments of “Uh, if you say so... I haven’t read that, so I don’t really know.” What’s our first book, Alec?

Alec Berry: You say pompous jerk. I say, “damn, Chad just owned that introduction.” Why have credits if you can’t talk about them?

While I know what book we’ll first chat about, I wanted to ask you about your reaction to the news. Granted, reactions to this publishing move are a dime a dozen, but I feel this piece would lack a little something without our initial thoughts and hopes and “dreams” for the relaunch. Plus, for readers aware of their Splash Page Podcast history, the word of complete relaunch came just shortly after the show’s end, and we never heard your thoughts (Tim’s we later did via his When Worlds Collide column as well as his stuff).

So as a Splash Page listener, Chad, I would like to know your initial expectations and thoughts because I didn’t get them way back when. If you did blog them up before, I apologize for missing them. Just act like it’s July or whatever, and you’ve just received word of DC’s plan but you also know all of the associated creative teams. What hopes do you hold for this relaunch, and do you feel it’s good move?

We can come back to the overall, current viewpoint later. For the sake of response time and organization, I’ll just type my original thoughts now.

Months ago ...

This news, contrary to the few creators involved whom I actually enjoy, excites me about DC Comics. I’ve been losing interest in them as a publisher. I buy Morrison and Snyder’s Batman stuff along with Nick Spencer and CAFU’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R.Agents, but roughly three comics out of the numerous DC publishes is not enough to solidify the publisher’s place in my list of favorites. Which sucks, because I kind of always cheer for DC even though I don’t know why. I guess I see them as the underdog in the “Big 2 Equation.” Plus, I like the potential in the DC Universe and what its inhabitants stand for in terms of being icons or modern gods. But the way the line has been handled in the past year … it hasn’t capitalized on the potential I see. And the Vertigo line … pretty weak when compared to previous years.

But, even though it’s another relaunch headed up by a handful of the same creators who’ve been working at DC, I’m excited about DC Comics right now. I think it’s because it’s not just another relaunch. Not really. Look at the scale of this move. It’s unprecedented and feels bold. New titles across the line. Jim Lee’s art, even though very 1993, painting the Justice League in a light. Day-and-date digital. Talk of major advertising efforts. I don’t care who you are. This is at least mildly compelling.

As of now, I’m counting 15 books on my “to try out” list. Possibly 20. That’s more than the three I was buying, right? Could this mean success?

Time will tell. The move could be huge in terms of sales or completely end in disaster. Quality wise … I’m a little uncertain. J.T. Krul still appears to write for DC, and only a small handful of these comics seem to have any sense of solid creative direction. Quality will ensure any long term good will. Still, even though I’m doubtful of the quality, I’m buying at least 15 DC comics come September. They have my money for that month.


My original thoughts. I’m sure they were wonderful to read, Chad. Just wonderful. So, what book do I want to kick off with? Oh, how about Animal Man? I felt it really stole the show.

Animal Man #1

I don’t know about you, but Jeff Lemire has been a wild card in my book. I’ve enjoyed some of his previous work like Essex County and the first 12 issues of Sweet Tooth, but other things, like his Superboy or the other issues of Sweet Tooth, have really left me bored and begging the question, “why?”. Why are so many people hooked on this dude? I get it. He can make you feel something. Whether it’s the pain of some situation in Sweet Tooth or the colorful bounce on a page of Superboy, Lemire makes you feel something, but past that, when the emotional trick wears off, what does this guy offer? His artwork is quite enjoyable. I like the torment and gray he carries in his line, and he can produce an eye-keeping page design. But even then, with the tormented line, it feels like more of that emotional trick.

I just sometimes want to chalk this guy’s favor up to his ability to make people cry. I mean, people dig emotional, “deep” stuff right? Works with such qualities win awards. After a while, I just find it, I don’t know, cheap. You know, make people cry, and they will remember you. The idea of leaning your entire work on emotions just made me want to write Lemire off.

Reading Animal Man - as well as Frankenstein which we’ll get to - has shown me a little more of what Lemire is capable of. While I feel a majority of the comic’s success falls on the efforts of Travel Foreman, Lemire fills some other shoes on this first issue and does a fine job. The tone and situation resemble a typical Lemire project, but there’s an interesting psychologicial horror element to this comic. I find it intriguing and exciting because it takes Buddy Baker a little bit away from what I understand him to be. Now, I have yet to read the Morrison stuff (I know, shame - how can I write about comics?), but Buddy Baker, from my point of view, is the family man. The dude changes diapers, eats at the dinner table every night, and talks to elephants. He lives a safe lifestyle for the most part. Those elements are certainly still in Lemire’s take, but he’s made Animal Man edgier. He’s placing the character in freaky, vein-filled head trips and setting his daughter in questionable territory. The lifestyle no longer seems so safe. As a first issue, it’s very well done. Lemire sells the character’s core, his world and builds conflict for future installments. This would bring back first time readers. I know I’m coming back for #2.

But, yeah, Travel Foreman. Without his art, even with Lemire’s strong writing, I do not believe I would have enjoyed this comic as much as I did. Foreman, along with Lovern Kindzierski’s colors, sell the eerie, unsteady vibe of this comic book. Just something about it - and I suck when it comes to writing about art - elevates the entire work.

I’ll just shut up, and let you go, Chad. Maybe you can explain Foreman in a more attractive manner.

CN: Christ... and I thought Callahan was a long-winded bastard...

My first reactions to the DC news was a surprising non-reaction. I’d heard mumblings about a big relaunch or reboot for a while, so there wasn’t really any surprise. I was intrigued about what books would be launched and scoffed at doing 52 ‘new’ books right away. I still scoff at that, honestly. (Short reason why: they made it work for the first month, quite possibly the second and third months... but how long before the train goes off the tracks? Will it still be working in a year?) Like you, I wasn’t buying a lot of DC books and, now, I’m buying more. So, victory, yes? Again, my negative personality and instinct to trash things immediately pointed out that, out of 52 titles, I’d added only ten or so to my pull list. More than before? Sure -- but not an overwhelming victory. (And, if you want to get into that bullshit Marvel vs. DC thing, still less comics than I buy from Marvel monthly.) But, I also didn’t care about continuity problems or the idea that everything up until now ‘didn’t count’ like a lot of fans. This was just another move by a comics publishers, albeit on a larger scale. A scale that’s impressive no doubt... just not enough to really sway my cold cynical heart. Give me 52 comics I want to buy every month and maybe my heart will pound a little faster.

I’m surprised you wanted to start with Animal Man. I expected to start with Justice League #1 and the two of us having a nice big argument as our introduction as a criticism duo. Instead, we both get to say nice things about a good comic. Animal Man was actually a ‘gut pick’ book (a book that I decided to buy purely on the gut feeling that it would be good), which is strange, because I’m not a Jeff Lemire fan. I’ve tried out Sweet Tooth a few times and it left me cold. I haven’t read Essex County despite actually living in Essex County right now, though. I didn’t read any of his previous DC superhero work. Yet, I was looking forward to Animal Man #1. Go figure.

The horror element is what really sold me. And I’m not a horror fan. Go figure again. I was enjoying the comic up until the dream sequence (and I don’t like dream sequences!) and, then, I just fell in love with it. It was creepy without being overbearing or descending into unintentional comedy -- and immediately followed up by a big ol’ punctuation mark with Buddy’s daughter. The book started with the family and comes back to the family. I like that. I like that the comic is rooted in Buddy being a husband and father in an era where most comics are running away from the family life with such passion that I can’t help but wonder about the marriages of comics professionals.

The opening page of Animal Man #1 was a surprise. Both in DC letting it happen and in how no one who read it seemed to mind. People love that little text interview! Just don’t call it a recap page, of course...

The reaction to Foreman’s art has been very mixed, which suits his art, I think. I won’t lie and say there aren’t some rough spots. I do think those rough spots work with the tone of the book. Buddy lives in a shifting world of sensory experience and the art reflects that to a degree. Nothing is entirely stable or consistent. It’s a subtle way of reminding us that Buddy’s senses must be confusing as hell at times as he shifts from eyesight as dominant to hearing to smell depending on the animal he’s tapped into.

I’m not sure about Buddy himself. That stems mostly from my anti-hippie, meat-loving life. I’m not an animal lover, which makes a protagonist who’s an animal lover and environmental activist not as near and dear for me as others.

One thing that struck me from Animal Man #1 was how effective it was at horror and ending in a very creepy, disturbing place where Swamp Thing #1, ostensibly more of a horror book by its nature, didn’t land in the same way. Discuss.

AB: Don’t worry. I will bring up Justice League #1 at some point and defend its existence. Just wait.

You bring up a good point on comic book marriages. Not many of them seem to fly, and neither do any regular old, girlfriend/boyfriend relationships. Not that I necessarily care as, like any asshole would say, none of these “people” are real. I’ve never been one to get caught up in that very soap opera aspect of cape comics. I think most of it relates to my earlier years reading comics. As a 13 year old kid, I cared less about the relationship between Green Arrow and Black Canary. I read for the fights, bright colors, and iconic moments - not the make-out sessions or break-up tears.

I think part of the “single hero” trend relates to that idea. Super hero comics are constantly labled boyhood fantasies, and if we’re to take that label as the actual approach, it makes sense most super heroes would run around unchained. Girls are “yucky,” right? Men get shit done and kick ass? That’s always been the belief, correct?

You could also look at singleness as another form of escapism, which is another label hero comics are usually slapped with. I mean, I’m far from being married, but I could imagine it being nice to attach yourself to a super hero character, live vicariously throw him or her, and use the 20 page comic book as a means to break free of the nagging wife or husband. Both reader and author could receive something from that.

Of course, if these comics were true escapism, you’d think more heroes would date. Authors and readers would receive the chance to hook-up with hot, fictional women or men they’ll never meet. Oh, wait ... Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 …

Or, hey, maybe the lack of marriages and relationships is all a part of some giant conspiracy to keep women out of comics. Seems relevant, right? Internet, you decide!

But, yeah, I agree. I enjoy Buddy Baker as a family man. The quality gives his character a little something unique and removes his book from the equation of some conventions. As Morrison has said, that’s the only mainstream mark he’s made that he would like to see not changed, and it appears Lemire may bend it but keep it fixed.

I had forgotten about the text page! Lemire handled it well. Buddy Baker’s past in this DC Universe is explained, and any new reader can obtain an idea of who this guy is. I also enjoy it for its ability to give the character a personality before we even see him. Buddy comes off as a real guy. And, hey, The Believer Magazine conducts the interview …

Swamp Thing #1

And now I get to be a little negative. This comic was just one big “eh.” Though, Paquette gets my respect. He made this armor Superman suit look kind of nifty, and he brought his game on layouts toward the back of the comic.

I’ll simply say Swamp Thing #1 didn’t pack the punch I expected of it. Alec Holland spends multiple pages talking to me about planks of wood and the violence of nature. Snyder relies way too heavily on captions to communicate. The tone seemed to fluctuate without any real anchor point. And, that entire conversation between Holland and Superman is basically a cheap way to tell me who Alec Holland is. The scene fell flat.

You are also completely right. Animal Man and Swamp Thing switched roles. The supposed horror comic went all super hero, and the super hero comic went all horror. Snyder does attempt a horrific tone towards the end of this first issue, but when the first 3/4ths of your comic reads like standard super hero fair, such a sudden change in tonal direction just feels off and sloppy. The flies whom snap necks were somewhat disturbing, and I enjoyed the use of red by Nathan Fairburn in said sequence but none of it was enough to save this issue for me.

Nothing terrible. I just felt it came off as a mess of a first issue, and Snyder’s writing did little to interest me in this story or character.

CN: I thought it was good, but on the low side of good... if that makes sense. I tend to run a little colder on Snyder’s writing than everyone else online who, apparently, isn’t you. When David Brothers pointed out his narration trick, I sort of smacked my head for not noticing it myself.

Something I said that I didn’t see anyone else ever echo was that Paquette, while skilled, dropped the ball big time in that final sequence. It was a horror sequence and Paquette’s art doesn’t communicate horror well. His art is a little too clean and posed even when it’s trying to be messy and dark. I was like “This is pretty... not scary or disturbing in the least.” And that wasn’t the fucking point. The point was scary and disturbing and fucked up, not pretty. If Paquette can’t pull scenes like that off, then he’s on the wrong book. It happens. Sometimes, great artists just aren’t a fit for certain subject matter...

Superman’s appearance was kind of funny (his actual appearance was funny visually to a degree, too, in that stupid costume and giant chin) in the reaction it produced online. He mentions having died once before and I loved seeing people freak out, because Clark and Lois have never even dated let alone got married, so how could “The Death of Superman” have happened? Sometimes (often), comics readers are idiots, Alec. (The answer is: the same way it happened previously, but without the Lois stuff. Duh.)

I don’t know... I find myself not having much to say about Swamp Thing #1. It was a comic that I read and mildly enjoyed...?

Where Swamp Thing holds my interest mostly is in its approach to the character. It’s one of the titles that seems to pick up right from where the DCU was. You can easily imagine that, without the relaunch, Swamp Thing #1 would have come out this month as a new ongoing series. The way that each first issue approaches its characters and their pasts has interested me. This one is a ‘continued from where we last left off’ one, while ones like Justice League are practically full-blown reboots. I’m curious how DC can have these various approaches coexist if they want a coherent, whole universe (and they do). All that “It’s a relaunch, not a reboot” talk was a lie, because it’s kind of a reboot... except when it’s not.

Now, Animal Man kind of straddles the line. It doesn’t feel like a direct continuation of where we last saw the character, but it’s also not a full-fledged reboot. Maybe that’s why it’s so successful (beyond all of the other reasons). It genuinely satisfies both desires of this relaunch by serving two masters.

[Part two is on Alec's blog, so go read it!]

CBR Review: Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island #4

I recently reviewed Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island #4 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Finally, Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island #4 has come out. The mini-series began in February 2010 with the most recent issue coming out in March of this year. That’s a fairly scattered release schedule, one that lessens the impact of this fourth issue. Unless you’re going to go back and reread the first three issues, this issue has a few moments of catching up in the story as it all comes back to you. Once you get past the gap since issue three came out, though, this fourth issue is a strong conclusion to an odd little story."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Journey into Mystery #630

I recently reviewed Journey into Mystery #630 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Fear itself is over and titles like Journey into Mystery get to pick up the pieces. In its first post-Fear Itself issue, the title begins to deal with the ramifications of what happened in the event, namely the death of Thor and the roles that Loki and Volstagg had in that death. As we saw last issue, Loki manipulated events so that Thor would sacrifice his life to kill the Serpent as a necessity; in this issue, his heretofore unknown co-conspirator, Volstagg, struggles to go on after helping to kill one of his dearest friends, even if it was called for."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Annihilators: Earthfall #2

I recently reviewed Annihilators: Earthfall #2 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The cover to this issue promises exactly what’s delivered as the Avengers and Annihilators come to blows. It’s another ‘heroes meet and fight over confusion as to what’s actually going on’ plot and it works well in this issue. That Abnett and Lanning can take a cliché of the superhero genre, make it refreshing, and build an entire issue around it is impressive. Since the Annihilators are comprised mostly of characters that have attacked Earth at one time or another, the Avengers seeing them as an invading alien force makes sense. This is not a group that, on the surface, engenders positive reactions on Earth."

You can read the rest HERE!